Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Miers Disavows Saying Constitution Protects Privacy

Published on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 by Bloomberg.com
by James Rowley
 
Miers disavows telling a U.S. senator that she believes there's a constitutional right to privacy and that a case the high court relied on when it legalized abortion was correctly decided, the lawmaker's spokesman said in a statement.

Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the statement after telling reporters that Miers, the White House counsel, had told him there was a right to privacy.

Specter's spokesman, Bill Reynolds, said Miers called the senator after reading news accounts of his comments about their conversation to say Specter had misunderstood her position about privacy or the 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.

``In their meeting this afternoon Sen. Specter thought Ms. Harriet Miers said she agreed with Griswold v. Connecticut and there was a right to privacy in the Constitution,'' Reynolds said in the statement emailed last night.

``Ms. Miers called him to say that he misunderstood her and that she had not taken a position on Griswold or the privacy issue. Sen. Specter accepts Ms. Miers's statement that he misunderstood what she said,'' Reynolds said in the statement.

The 1965 Griswold decision held that Connecticut violated the constitutional right to privacy of married couples by banning the sale of contraceptives. It formed a basis for the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Liberty Clause

Specter's statement, and the disavowal by Miers, came after the nominee was questioned about her views on abortion during individual meetings with the Pennsylvania lawmaker and other members of the Judiciary Committee.

Former Indiana Senator Dan Coats, enlisted by the White House to help shepherd the nomination through the Senate, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying the Constitution's liberty clause implied a right to privacy.

White House spokesman Jim Dyke, who was briefed on the meeting, said Miers was ``asked about privacy'' and she cited the Constitution's liberty clause. ``She did not discuss specific cases. She hasn't with other senators. She didn't with other senators in the past,'' Dyke said.

Coats attended the meeting along with Miers, Specter, and a member of Specter's Judiciary Committee staff, Dyke said.

`Nobody Knows'

Earlier in the day, another member of the Judiciary Committee, New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer, said Miers refused to discuss her views on the Griswold case or other decisions of the Supreme Court.

Schumer told him that ``nobody knows'' her views on whether she would vote to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that created a constitutional right to abortion.

Specter had told reporters that he had questioned Miers during their meeting about Griswold and another high-court decision that in 1972 struck down a Massachusetts statute banning the sale of birth control devices to unmarried people.

``She said she believes there is a right to privacy in the Constitution'' and that both contraception cases were ``correctly decided,'' Specter told reporters in Washington.

New Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during his confirmation hearing in September that the Constitution protects a right to privacy, though he wouldn't give his views on the Roe decision.

Miers's nomination by President George W. Bush angered some conservative activists who question whether she's the best choice to help consolidate conservative control of the Supreme Court. They cited her lack of a track record as a judge as leaving unanswered the question of how she might rule on such questions as abortion.

Specter, one of the few Senate Republicans who supports abortion rights, said he intended to question Miers about her views on the issue during confirmation hearings. Miers was nominated to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a swing vote who has support abortion rights.

Copyright © Bloomberg L.P.

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