WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers said Monday she has not told anyone her views on the landmark 1973 ruling that established abortion rights, although she believes the Constitution contains a right to privacy, according to lawmakers who met separately with her.
"She said nobody knows my views on Roe vs. Wade . Nobody can speak for me on Roe vs. Wade ," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., referring to the case that set a legal precedent that abortion foes have been trying to overturn since it was created.
A subsequent meeting led to a politically awkward moment when the White House said the man who will preside over Miers' confirmation hearings, Sen. Arlen Specter, had erroneously described comments she privately made to him.
Specter told reporters that beyond stating that the Constitution includes a right to privacy, Miers had voiced support for two privacy-related rulings affirming a right for couples to use contraceptives.
But former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who is shepherding Miers' nomination, said the Pennsylvania Republican was mistaken. "When asked about the Griswold case, Harriet Miers said what she has consistently said all along, and that is ... she is not commenting on specific cases," he said in reference to a 1965 ruling involving the use of contraceptives by married couples.
An aide to Specter, William Reynolds, subsequently issued a statement saying the senator "accepts Ms. Miers statement that he misunderstood what she said." The right to privacy is the constitutional underpinning of the 1973 court's abortion ruling.
Whatever transpired in the session in Specter's office, the episode marked the latest bump in a confirmation campaign that has been anything but smooth.
President Bush began a third week of trying to stem criticism from conservatives that he picked a crony without necessary qualifications for the court.
Bush met with six former Texas Supreme Court justices who traveled to Washington to serve as character witnesses for Miers, a 60-year-old former private practice lawyer who is currently White House chief counsel.
Senate Republicans hope to begin nomination hearings the week of Nov. 7, with a vote in the Judiciary Committee the next week and the full Senate before Thanksgiving, officials in both parties said.