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SOUTER REFUSES REPORTERS’ QUESTIONS ABOUT ABORTION, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

SHARE SOUTER REFUSES REPORTERS’ QUESTIONS ABOUT ABORTION, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

David Souter met Thursday with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will consider his Supreme Court nomination and refused to answer reporters' questions about abortion and affirmative action.

Souter spent an hour in private discussions with committee chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., who will preside over the confirmation hearings expected in September.The quiet New Hampshire jurist continued to dodge questions by reporters following him as he made his courtesy calls.

Asked if there was any way to get him to talk about his views on abortion, he responded: "In a word, no."

How about affirmative action?

"Same word," he said. "I like that word." But he kidded a reporter to "keep it up."

After his meeting with Biden, Souter said, "I look forward to making my positions clear to the extent it is constitutionally appropriate" when the hearings begin. Biden declined to reveal the contents of their discussions.

Souter did not express a personal stand on the abortion issue but said his fellow judges had decided that a measure then pending before the state legislature would promote "shopping for judges" because it did not include guidelines on how judges should act. Therefore, he said, the bill would unfairly leave such decisions up to individual judges with varied opinions on abortion, resulting in inconsistent application of any such law.

New Hampshire abortion rights activist Peg Dobbie said Wednesday Souter's letter was critical to efforts to kill the legislation. She added, "But while it helped us, you can't read into it anything about how he might feel personally about abortion," an issue likely to dominate Souter's Senate confirmation hearings.

Dawn Johnsen, legal director for the National Abortion Rights Action League in Washington, said the letter was reason for the Senate to probe Souter's views on constitutional issues surrounding abortion during its hearings. But she said NARAL did not view the letter as revealing Souter's inclinations on the central abortion issue.

"I think it is not very illuminating on Judge Souter's position on the constitutional right to privacy, including the right to choose," Johnsen said.

She said it "suggests that Judge Souter might vote with conservatives on the court to allow a law that mandated parental consent without any escape valve for teen-agers who are victims of child abuse and family violence," and thus are unable to discuss an abortion with their parents.