BOSTON (SHNS) – Abortion rights became a wedge issue in the Governor’s Council Wednesday on the confirmation of a new Superior Court judge, who was ultimately approved to join the bench along with a new District Court judge whose public hearing was held at a private time last week.

The council voted 5-3 to confirm Claudine Cloutier for the Superior Court after Councilor Terry Kennedy said he was voting against the nominee “as a matter of conscience.”

“It’s extremely rare in this chamber for me to vote no. I think that the nominee has many good qualities and has a lot of legal experience. But I was deeply troubled with respect to her position on a woman’s right to choose and make her own health decisions,” the Lynnfield Democrat said, adding that he thought Cloutier’s responses to questions at her public hearing “kind of mimicked what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said during their hearings.”

Councilor Joe Ferreira countered that “no Superior Court judge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is ever going to have the last say on abortion, or abortion rights. … I think abortion is a legislative matter to be interpreted by the [Supreme Judicial Court], and a Superior Court judge has little or nothing to do with it.”

Cloutier was probed on reproductive rights at her public interview last week, particularly by Councilor Eileen Duff of Gloucester.

Queried Duff: “Would you uphold the law in Massachusetts where women have the right to make decisions, they have autonomy on their own body?”

“I would be bound to uphold the law in Massachusetts,” Cloutier replied.

“I need to know that you support the woman’s right to choose, as a judge,” Duff said. “I don’t care what you do personally — that’s none of my business, right? Your religion’s none of my business. … I need to know with absolute certainty that you would uphold a woman’s right to choose in Massachusetts.”

“It’s hard for me to imagine under what scenario that particular question would come before a Superior Court judge,” Cloutier responded. “I’ve not seen that. I’m not privy to that. I can only tell you that I would judge every matter before me in accordance with the law, and uphold the law.”

A Keches Law Group partner, Cloutier has managed the firm’s tort department since around 2006. A Fall River native, she serves on the Fall River High School Alumni Scholarship Fund trustees, the board of the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education through the Diocese of Fall River, and the Dean’s Cabinet at Suffolk Law.

Kennedy and Duff were joined by Councilor Paul DePalo in opposing Cloutier’s judgeship.

Mara Dolan, who is challenging incumbent Councilor Marilyn Devaney in this year’s Democratic primary, cast Cloutier as an “anti-choice nominee” in a statement and knocked the confirmation as “inexcusable.”

Voices were raised earlier in Wednesday’s meeting on the issue of District Court nominee Jason Yu-Ting Chan’s public hearing last week, or relative lack thereof.

Chan’s hearing had been scheduled for 3 p.m. on July 13 but was actually convened before 2:30 p.m. and adjourned in less than three minutes. Neither Chan nor his witnesses made any statements, and councilors asked no questions of any of them.

Councilor Devaney, who was the only councilor to vote against Chan on Wednesday, said: “I’m not voting for people who don’t have hearings. That’s our responsibility.”

The Watertown Democrat said that the council should wait to vote until after a proper hearing could be held.

A trio of councilors pointed Wednesday to the fact that they conduct private interviews prior to the public hearing.

Councilor Mary Hurley of East Longmeadow, who did not participate in the brief Chan appearance last week, said she had already interviewed him via phone.

Worcester Councilor Paul DePalo said: “Like with many nominees, a lot of the work in vetting this nominee happened outside of the hearing. I sat with the nominee for well over an hour.”

The councilor who presided over Chan’s hearing and moved it earlier than the posted public notice, Councilor Robert Jubinville of Milton, questioned the merit of an extensive public hearing and said that councilors “all decided in our own way how we were going to vote, before we even walked into this chamber.”

“Very few times has anybody changed their vote because of questioning of the nominee. The fact of the matter is, everybody was prepared in here,” Jubinville said. “We had done our due diligence, and decided there was no sense in listening to the witnesses say that he’s wonderful, and no sense in him regurgitating what he put into his application that we all read.”

Devaney countered: “A public hearing is for the public’s right to hear. They heard nothing. They don’t know anything about this person. And I, yes, I met with him four hours. I meet with everyone. But what’s happening here is wrong.”

Chan was confirmed 6-1, with Devaney voting in the negative and Duff voting “present.”

The council over the years has routinely held extensive public hearings on judicial nominees.

The council started its day with a hearing on whether to reappoint Parole Board member Colette Santa to a second term. Already postponed twice, the Santa hearing ran up against a scheduled afternoon interview with District Court nominee Christopher Henry, and was recessed around noon to be continued on Aug. 3 at 10:30 a.m.

The council also received two new nominations from Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday: private practice attorneys Brent Tingle to the Superior Court bench and Jon Revelli to the District Court bench. Public hearings were not yet scheduled on either nomination.