President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he will not insist that his Supreme Court nominee pass any "litmus tests" in supporting a woman's right to have an abortion, but made clear he'll choose a candidate who will consider personal privacy and women's rights.
"That's going to be something that's very important to me," Obama said in response to a question about a woman's right to choose.
"I think part of what our constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals have protection in their privacy, and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that," Obama said.
The president noted that the debate over abortion rights has long divided the country, and he chose a response that did not box him in. At the same time, Obama underscored his belief in a right to privacy. The president is in the midst of considering a nominee to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, who will leave the high court this summer.
"I will say the same thing that every president has said since this issue came up, which is, I don't have litmus tests around any of these issues," Obama told reporters. "But I will say that I want somebody who will be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights. And that includes women's rights."
Obama made his remarks at the start of a consultative session at the White House with senators who help shape the tone and course of the Senate confirmation process. Seated with him were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel.
Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator and veteran of many Supreme Court confirmation battles, joined Obama as well.
Obama said he plans to nominate someone by the end of May at the latest, but hopefully sooner—as is widely expected.