In response to a question about abortion rights, President Barack Obama said today that the Constitution protects women's "privacy and their bodily integrity" and that he wants a Supreme Court nominee who will interpret the Constitution to account for women's rights.
Obama also said he wants to choose a nominee within the next month.
The president spoke briefly with White House reporters before a meeting with four Senate leaders to discuss potential successors to Justice John Paul Stevens. He took one question, and a reporter asked whether he would be willing to nominate someone who opposes abortion rights.
Obama replied by reiterating his own support for abortion rights and by disavowing “litmus tests around any of these issues,” according to a White House transcript.
“But,” he added, “I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that’s going to be something that’s very important to me, because I think part of what our core Constitution — constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.”
Obama said he hopes to name his choice before May 26, the day that he named Justice Sonia Sotomayor as a nominee last year. “We are certainly going to meet that deadline, and we hope maybe we can accelerate it a little bit so that we have some additional time,” he said.
Click here for video of Obama's remarks today, via C-SPAN.
The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Obama has begun speaking with potential nominees, though the newspaper said that the conversations are not final interviews.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who attended the White House meeting, released a statement praising the process that Obama is using to select Stevens' successor.
"This President has taken seriously the advice and consent role of the United States Senate in appointing judges to the federal judiciary," Leahy said. "I hope that all Senators will resist hasty reactions driven by the special interests on either the right or the left. I hope that each Senator will instead fulfill his or her constitutional responsibility to fairly consider and evaluate the nominee."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, released a joint statement saying a justice should have an open mind and not be a "rubberstamp."
“When the President selects a nominee," they said, "Senate Republicans will review that nominee’s record diligently and respectfully with the goal of ensuring that the American people can be confident that the nominee will be able to fulfill the judicial oath, which is to ‘faithfully and impartially’ administer justice ‘without respect to persons.’"