Monday, July 12, 2010

How Kagan Influenced High Court on Partial Birth Abortions

An interesting example of politicised science has emerged during Senate hearings on Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Documents reveal that she doctored a draft statement on partial-birth abortion by the American Council of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) while she was an associate White House counsel for the Clinton administration in 1996. The documents, released by the Clinton Library, include a memo, a draft ACOG statement on partial-birth abortions, and a set of undated notes in Kagan's handwriting.

At the time, the Clinton Administration opposed any restrictions on partial-birth abortions which did not include health exceptions. ACOG asked the White House for advice about how to describe its positions. Its draft statement said that it "could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman." This clearly undermined Clinton's stand.

Kagan helpfully rephrased the statement. It then read: "A select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which this procedure, as defined above, would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman. An intact D&X, however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances can make this decision."

Unsurprisingly, the discovery of the documents has enraged the pro-life lobby. But Slate columnist William Saletan said what concerned him most was that ACOG consented to Kagan's editorial assistance, and that subsequently her additions were cited by the Supreme Court to allow partial-birth abortions to continue. ~ Slate, Jul 3; National Review Online, Jun 29; CNS News, Jun 29.

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