Press Kennedy on Helms Talk, Panel Urged

United Press International

Abortion rights supporters urged a Senate panel today to ask Supreme Court nominee Anthony M. Kennedy why he did not disclose a brief discussion he reportedly had on abortion with Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).

Helms once threatened to filibuster a Kennedy nomination to the high court but then said after a Nov. 12 White House meeting with the nominee that he could support him. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas, quoting Helms, wrote recently that the senator withdrew his initial strong opposition to Kennedy based on a comment the nominee made to him on abortion.

“The Cal Thomas column raises major questions and concerns,” said Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League, which has not taken a position on the Kennedy nomination.

Inquiry ‘Imperative’


“This article, and the fact Judge Kennedy recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee he didn’t discuss issues that might come before the Supreme Court with anyone from the Administration or the Senate, makes it imperative the committee delve deeply into his meeting with Jesse Helms,” she said.

In answers to a questionnaire released earlier this week by the committee, Kennedy responded with a flat “no” to a question of whether anyone involved in the pre-nomination selection process--including the Senate or its staff--"discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue or question?”

Committee spokesman Pete Smith said the panel had no specific comment, but that “we will, as we’ve said all along, look into all relevant matters.” The panel’s confirmation hearing on Kennedy is scheduled to begin Dec. 14.

‘I Admire It’


Thomas, in a Nov. 23 column that began to get attention only this week, reported that Helms had discussed with him details of the meeting he had with Kennedy on Nov. 12, the day after Reagan announced the nomination.

Helms is quoted by Thomas as saying he told Kennedy, “I think you know where I stand on abortion.”

Kennedy, as quoted by Helms in the column, smiled and responded: “Indeed I do and I admire it. I am a practicing Catholic.”