Sen. Alan Cranston said Monday he will vote against confirmation of Supreme Court nominee David Souter because the federal appeals court judge refuses to back abortion rights.

"I will vote `no' because Judge Souter will not reveal his views on a fundamental constitutional issue - the right of privacy," Cranston, of California, the assistant Democratic leader, said in a floor speech.After Cranston stated his opposition in a floor speech, Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala., stood up to announce his endorsement. He said he believed the 51-year-old New Hampshire jurist possesses the "endearing quality of being willing to listen, to be fair and impartial."

The statements came as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on President Bush's selection to replace retired Associate Justice William Brennan on the nation's highest court. That vote could come as early as Thursday.

A vote by the full Senate is likely soon after that, perhaps in time for Souter to take his seat when the Supreme Court returns to the bench Oct. 1.

Cranston had stated his intention in an interview Sunday.

"I cannot support a nominee who refuses to acknowledge that a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right or that the right of individuals, married or unmarried, to use contraceptives to prevent a pregnancy, is a matter of settled law," Cranston said.

"I cannot support a nominee who regards these issues as open questions," he said.

"My view of my responsibility under the Constitution to the generations of Americans who will be affected by those decisions, particularly the millions of young women whose very lives may well depend on the right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy, compels me to vote `no' on this nomination," Cranston said.