updated 7/19/2007 7:03:39 AM ET 2007-07-19T11:03:39

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a proponent of abortion rights, said Wednesday he would not use a judicial nominee’s stand on the issue or the landmark Supreme Court decision as a litmus test.

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On a campaign swing through conservative western Iowa, the former New York mayor pledged to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution on gun rights and other issues. Abortion never came up in his address to about 100 people at a junior high school, but it did during an exchange with reporters.

“Abortion is not a litmus test. Roe v. Wade is not a litmus test. No particular case is a litmus test. That’s not the way to appoint Supreme Court justices or any judge,” Giuliani said.

Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion. Giuliani favors abortion rights though he has said he personally opposes the procedure, a stand that puts him at odds with his rivals and the conservative Republicans who hold sway in the primaries.

In talking to reporters, he said any candidate for federal judgeship would refuse to decide ahead of time on future abortion rulings.

“Otherwise, why have legal arguments if you’re not going to give judges a chance to change their mind,” Giuliani said.

'It is not the only issue'
He noted that he got no questions on abortion in his appearance. “I think Roe against Wade is an issue. It is not the only issue,” he said.

At the first Republican debate in May, Giuliani was alone among the GOP candidates in offering a less-than-robust affirmation when asked whether it would be a good day if the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling.

“It would be OK,” Giuliani said. “It would be OK to repeal it.”

But, he added: “It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent” and kept the law intact.

His promise about judicial appointments is aimed at reassuring conservatives nervous about his more liberal stands on gun control and other issues. As an example, he lauded a federal court ruling that overturned a 30-year-old ban on private ownership of handguns in Washington, D.C.

“The Second Amendment says people have a right to keep and bear arms. Judges interpret the Constitution; they should not be allowed to make it up,” Giuliani said at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in Council Bluffs.

As mayor, Giuliani pursued gun control laws and lawsuits against gun manufacturers. At a family restaurant in LeMars, Iowa, he said the issue should largely be left up to states.

“No state can completely take away your right to bear arms,” Giuliani said.

Asked whether the country has enough gun laws, Giuliani said that is probably the case.

He said he would appoint judges like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two President Bush appointees who were embraced by conservatives for their views on abortion and other issues.

Invoking Reagan's legacy
Giuliani mentioned former President Reagan more than half a dozen times, reminding the crowd about how he served as a senior Justice Department official during the Reagan administration.

“He did a very, very good job of, much more often than not, selecting really good judges who would interpret the Constitution in a way that will protect your rights and my rights,” he said. “They’re there to interpret things, not to change things. You have legislators to change things.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Giuliani stopped at the Sloan Cafe in the farming town — population slightly more than 1,000 — to meet voters. About 200 people crowded the two-room cafe, and women stood on chairs to take photographs. Many said they were conservative, especially on abortion and gun control, but were willing to give Giuliani a chance.

Coleen Savage said it’s difficult to support an abortion rights candidate, but Giuliani “can stand up against Hillary.”

“To get the conservative, you’ve got to grit your teeth and take a little bit of the moderate or liberal,” said Savage, a corn-and-soybean farmer.

Throughout the day, Giuliani brought up the issue of illegal immigration, which consistently drew applause. He said the country needs to secure its borders first, then issue tamperproof ID cards, then allow anyone in the U.S. illegally willing to identify himself or herself to go to the back of the line, pay back taxes and apply for citizenship. Illegals who remain should be rounded up and deported, he said.

Immigration is important to Dave Liebsack, a pharmacist who watched Giuliani at a town hall Wednesday night in Sioux City.

“I think the wall can’t be high enough,” Liebsack said.

Liebsack said he is a conservative who likes Giuliani’s record on fiscal responsibility and national security.

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