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updated 11/17/2007 3:25:08 AM ET 2007-11-17T08:25:08

On the campaign trail, Rudolph W. Giuliani has made the case that while he believes that abortions are wrong, he thinks the ultimate decision of whether to have them should be up to women, and not the government. But he has also pledged to appoint the kind of conservative judges who might be expected to rule against abortion.

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It is a position that has confused some people on both sides of the abortion debate.

And while Mr. Giuliani did not mention abortion at all in a 40-minute speech on judicial philosophy that he gave here Friday to the Federalist Society, an influential group of conservative judges, the issue was still very much on the minds of some listeners.

Mr. Giuliani told the crowd, “We’re seeking to find judges who understand the very, very important concept that judges exist to interpret the law, not to invent the law.” He went on to praise several Supreme Court Justices who had voted to limit abortion rights as models of the kinds of justices that he would put on the bench as president.

Still, one member of the audience, M. Edward Whelan III, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said he would have liked to hear Mr. Giuliani more explicitly oppose the Roe v. Wade decision, even if he supports abortion rights.

“I thought it was a strong statement of the general principles that ought to govern the role of judges,” said Mr. Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Mr. Giuliani called a model for the kind of justice he would appoint.

“Given the mixed signals that Rudy Giuliani has given in the past on abortion, I think it’s unfortunate that he didn’t use this occasion to clarify his understanding of how those principles apply,” he said.

People on the other side of the debate are also looking for clarity. Kelli Conlon of Naral Pro-Choice New York, recalled that Mr. Giuliani had put her on his transition team when he was elected mayor and issued proclamations to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But Ms. Conlon said she was troubled to hear him say that he would appoint justices in the model of Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

“Obviously, judges in the mold of Thomas and Scalia are going to overturn Roe v. Wade, no doubt,” she said in a telephone interview, adding that her group was uneasy about Mr. Giuliani’s recent statements. “We really feel like, out of the glare of the cameras, we have to sit down with him and his colleagues and ask, which is the real Rudy Giuliani?”

On guns and God
In his address to the Federalist Society, Mr. Giuliani spoke against racial quotas and the use of eminent domain to enrich private developers.

Mr. Giuliani, a former supporter of gun control, praised a recent federal court decision overturning a gun-control law. He said that the nomination fight that blocked Judge Robert H. Bork from the Supreme Court was a “new low,” lamented “the attempted character assassination” of Justice Thomas, and said all judicial appointees should get an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

And he spoke about religion in the public sphere. “I cannot figure out where some imperative exists to take the words ‘under God’ out of the Pledge of Allegiance, or to ban the mention of the 10 amendments in a public square,” he said, after discussing the Bill of Rights. Then he corrected himself: “The 10 Commandments.”

The nuances of Mr. Giuliani’s position are already playing out in interesting ways.

When the Rev. Pat Robertson, who opposes abortion, endorsed Mr. Giuliani this month, he called terrorism the main threat facing the country, but added that Mr. Giuliani “understands the needs of a conservative judiciary.”

But some conservatives are still threatening not to support Mr. Giuliani if he becomes the nominee, and when the National Right to Life Committee endorsed Fred D. Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator, last week, it said Mr. Thompson had the best chance of defeating Mr. Giuliani.

Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general, who is the chairman of Mr. Giuliani’s justice advisory committee, said Mr. Giuliani had made it clear that he would not ask his judicial selections ahead of time their views on specific cases.

Jennifer Stockman of the Republican Majority for Choice praised Mr. Giuliani for running a campaign on big issues, and not social issues. “Rudy has been consistently pro-choice: he’s never wavered from saying he believes in a woman’s right to choose,” Ms. Stockman said. “No one thought we would have a pro-choice Republican leading the pack.”

Copyright © 2013 The New York Times

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