President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court advised the Clinton administration, “The politics of it have become too good” for opponents, and the partial-birth issue “gives them a wedge into pre-viability abortions.”
-- From "Kagan Played Lead Role in Abortion Rights Fight Under Clinton" by Greg Stohr and Kristin Jensen, Bloomberg - Business Week 6/12/10
[Documents made public Friday expose Kagan's opinions during her tenure as a White House counsel to President Clinton.]
Elena Kagan helped shape the Clinton administration’s fight against a Republican bill to limit abortion, aiming to bolster the rights of women and honing the message of the administration and its allies.
Now President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Kagan in 1996 and 1997 immersed herself in both the legal and political aspects of the fight over a procedure opponents termed partial-birth abortion, according to documents released yesterday by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Kagan laid out alternative phrasing for a draft statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG]. Although the medical group said the procedure should be an option, the draft statement also said that an expert panel didn’t believe the method was the only way to save a woman’s life or health.
“This, of course, would be disaster -- not the less so (in fact, the more so) because ACOG continues to oppose the legislation,” Kagan wrote in a Dec. 14, 1996, memo.
Notes in Kagan’s handwriting list “suggested options” for modifying the group’s statement, including that the procedure “may be the best or most appropriate” option.
That language ended up in the final version of the group’s statement alongside the original sentence about the expert panel’s findings.
Many of Kagan’s memos came after Clinton vetoed the ban in April 1996, saying there wasn’t a clear exception for the life or health of the mother. The White House later fought to prevent Congress from overriding Clinton’s veto.
The partial-birth debate put Clinton in a delicate political position, caught between his support for abortion rights and popular opposition to the procedure as characterized by its opponents. Foes said the procedure, typically a late-term technique that involves partially removing a fetus from the mother before killing it, amounted to infanticide.
Kagan suggested in her December 1996 memo that opponents were winning the political battle and positioning themselves to restrict abortion at earlier stages of pregnancy.
In a memo to then-White House Counsel Jack Quinn on June 22, 1996, Kagan said she planned to send talking points on partial-birth abortion to the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s re-election campaign. Quinn wrote back that the office couldn’t do talking points “just for DNC/campaign.”
“Of course you’re right,” Kagan replied in a handwritten note. “I will make sure the talking points get more general use or aren’t done at all.”
In that same memo, Kagan raised the point that the health exception Clinton sought wouldn’t affect many women. After meeting with members of ACOG, she said there weren’t many cases where the procedure was the least risky or the “necessary” approach.
“No one should worry about being able to drive a truck through the president’s proposed exception,” Kagan wrote. “The real issue is whether anything at all can get through it.”
. . . Congress enacted the partial-birth ban after Republican George W. Bush succeeded Clinton as president.
To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.
Also read previous report by CBS News: Kagan Flaming Liberal