Ncjw Testifies Against Souter Because of Silence on Abortion

The National Council of Jewish Women urged the Senate on Tuesday not to confirm Judge David Souter as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joan Bronk, the organization’s president, said the National Council was not reassured by Souter’s refusal to discuss the issue of abortion and his “vagueness” on equality for women.

These are “two areas of vital importance to the National Council of Jewish Women,” Bronk said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She said Souter’s promise to listen to both sides of an argument was nothing more than what all judges are required to do.

“Based on the testimony we have heard, it would require a leap of faith to assume that Judge Souter recognizes and would protect the fundamental right to privacy” which made abortions legal in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, Bronk said.

She said rejecting this right was also a denial of religious freedom, since restrictions on reproductive rights would prevent a woman from making a decision based on her “religious beliefs and practices.”

When Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked Bronk how Judaism views abortion, she replied, “In my own religion, I am taught that the mother’s life is paramount to the fetus.”

If Roe vs. Wade were overturned, “that would put women of the Jewish faith in an untenable position,” she said.

Bronk was one of a slate of public witnesses who testified for and against Souter, after the New Hampshire native finished three days of testimony Monday, his 51st birthday.

No other Jewish organization has taken a public stand on whether Souter should be confirmed to succeed Justice William Brennan, who resigned suddenly in July.

But several Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, sent the Senate committee questions that they suggested be asked of Souter.

The committee is expected to vote on the nomination by the end of the week, and the full Senate is expected to act in time for Souter to join the court for its new session Oct. 1.

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