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Senate likely to okay Ginsburg; abortion views to be questioned

Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg launched a charm offensive Tuesday to shore up confirmation support. Key senators predicted she would win easy approval as the nation's second female justice.

Ginsburg, 60, a federal appeals court judge, was nominated Monday by President Clinton to replace Justice Byron White, who is retiring.

In her first goodwill visit to the Senate, Ginsburg impressed Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Posing for photographs and television cameras, Biden, said: "I have never been as optimistic nor have I been as pleased by the naming of a nominee as I am by the choice President Clinton has made in . . . Judge Ginsburg."

He said he would announce a hearing schedule in the next few days after consulting Senate leaders, and added: "I have every expectation that Judge Ginsburg will be met with wide approval by liberals, conservatives, moderates and the Senate as a whole."

Hatch later agreed with Biden's forecast, saying: "I think she will have a relatively easy time."

Ginsburg's views on abortion are sure to be a focal point of her confirmation hearings: Anti-abortion activists are convinced she's an enemy and some advocates of choice are unsure she's an ally.

Ginsburg has criticized the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, saying the Supreme Court and the country would have been better off if abortion rights had been established more gradually. But her views also suggest she firmly believes in those rights and considers them vital to "the dignity and equality of women."

In a speech in March to the New York University law school Ginsburg said, "Roe vs. Wade . . . halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue."

She said the court could have adopted a theory she devised as a pioneer attorney for women's rights: that the Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantee of "equal protection" requires the government to steer clear of women's medical choices if it does so for men.

In a 1985 article in the North Carolina Law Review, Ginsburg sounded the same theme. She said Roe would have been stronger if based on a "sex-equality perspective" and criticized it as "heavy-handed judicial intervention."