Conservative panel assails Ginsburg Anti-abortion groups try to derail confirmation process

July 24, 1993|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Conservative and anti-abortion groups, in an effort to slow the Senate's rapid move toward overwhelming approval of Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, denounced her yesterday as a liberal activist, perhaps even a "radical."

As the Senate Judiciary Committee ended its hearings and prepared to vote next Thursday on President Clinton's first judicial nominee, Kay Cole James, vice president of the Family Research Council, testified that Judge Ginsburg's views on abortion "are radical, activist and wrong."

She accused the nominee of going out of her way to tell the committee of her strong support for abortion rights even though she refused to discuss with senators her views on other controversial issues, such as the death penalty.

Susan Hirschmann, executive director of the Eagle Forum, which describes itself as a national conservative and pro-family organization, disputed the frequent assessment that Judge Ginsburg is a moderate. "In fact," said Ms. Hirschmann, "her writings betray her as a radical feminist, far out of the mainstream."

Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus predicted that, as a justice, Judge Ginsburg "would not safeguard the God-given right to life; she would further subvert it." On issues beyond the abortion question, he added, she would "seek to establish herself as a 'super-legislator.' "

The appearance of those three witnesses on a panel of conservative challengers of the nominee led to the unusual spectacle of Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and one of the Senate's leading conservative and anti-abortion members, lecturing that panel against trying to "politicize" the court.

They should take their views on abortion to Congress and other legislatures, and not to the courts, the senator suggested.

The conservative panel was one of six groupings of public witnesses the committee heard yesterday. All the others yesterday favored Judge Ginsburg's nomination, with lavish praise that matched favorable words offered during the hearings by members of the committee themselves.

For example, William E. Willis, a New York lawyer and head of the American Bar Association committee that screens Supreme Court nominees, testified about his panel's unanimous vote to give the nominee the highest rating. He quoted one ABA researcher who had reviewed her work as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here: "She graces the bench with style and understanding, and the confidence of one with a well-trained mind and a sense of herself."

Stanford Law School professor Gerald Gunther, one of Judge Ginsburg's teachers when she went to law school at Columbia University, told the committee: "She possesses all of the qualities you should cherish in a justice. . . . She is a splendid human being."

As the hearings came to an end in midafternoon, Mr. Hatch, the top Republican on the committee, joined in the praise for the nominee, remarking: "I commend President Clinton for making an excellent choice."

The panel has scheduled a meeting for Thursday morning to decide whether to recommend approval of Judge Ginsburg. As of yesterday, there was no indication that any member of the committee would vote against that recommendation.

Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democrat, said he hoped the full Senate would vote on the nomination before it takes a recess in mid-August. If, as expected, Judge Ginsburg wins confirmation, she would have nearly two months to prepare for the court's new term.

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