WASHINGTON – Another battle is brewing over one of President Bush's Court of Appeals nominees, who told a Senate committee Wednesday that his personal opinions on abortion would not cloud his judgment on the law.
"With absolutely the least humanly possible influence from my own personal views I will enforce the law," Utah law professor Michael McConnell said. "I will do it fairly, I will do it evenhandedly."
Bush nominated McConnell to serve on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. McConnell has the strong support of conservatives, and in fact, the very liberal and quite respected law professor Laurence Tribe has spoken in glowing terms about the nominee.
But a coalition of abortion rights groups and liberal activists, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, are aligned against the McConnell because of his writings on church-state issues and Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that allowed women to choose to abort their pregnancies.
"In every conceivable forum, the courtroom, the Congress, the halls of academe and in the popular press, McConnell has railed against the right of a woman to make personal decisions free from governmental interference," said Kate Michelman, head of NARAL.
"Michael McConnell combines many of the worst attributes in judicial nominees," added Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Liberal Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have already killed the nominations of Charles W. Pickering and Priscilla Owens to serve on the 5th Circuit Court. But most observers of the confirmation process acknowledge it will be very hard to stop the McConnell nomination. He has been endorsed by 304 law professors.
And he vowed Wednesday to follow the law -- not his own beliefs.
"This is a country committed to judging by the law and I'm absolutely committed to that," McConnell said.
"The question is not what has he said in his writings, the question is what will he do on the bench," GOP Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
McConnell's reception by the more liberal Democrats on the committee was the determining factor in this stage of his confirmation, but even those opposing the nomination admit that he has a fairly good chance of being confirmed.
Fox News' Brian Wilson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.