(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh last year praised a dissenting opinion in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights case, crediting it with helping curb the "free-wheeling judicial creation" of constitutional rights.
In a speech before the American Enterprise Institute, Kavanaugh stopped short of saying that the 1973 Roe decision was wrong or that it should be overturned. But he praised the reasoning of then-Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent, saying it led to a 1997 ruling that said the Constitution doesn’t protect a right to assisted suicide.
That latter ruling, written by Rehnquist, "stands to this day as an important precedent, limiting the court’s role in the realm of social policy and helping to ensure that the court operates more as a court of law and less as an institution of social policy," Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh called Rehnquist "my first judicial hero," lauding him for opinions that backed the death penalty, helped criminal prosecutions and gave the government more freedom to send money to religious schools. Rehnquist "righted the ship of constitutional jurisprudence," Kavanaugh said.
Rehnquist served as chief justice from 1986 until his death in 2005.
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