By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan stumbled yesterday when questioned about her role in doctoring a critical statement from a medical group in the partial birth abortion debate. Her less than convincing answers may cost her some votes.
Fox News is reporting that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch raised the subject of Ms. Kagan’s role during her years in the Clinton White House in changing a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that said there were no circumstances under which partial birth abortion would be the only option for saving a woman’s life.
Calling this original statement “a disaster,” Kagan amended it to say that the brutal procedure “may be the best and most appropriate procedure in particular circumstances.” This doctored statement was cited by numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, as proof that the medical profession thought partial birth abortion might sometimes be necessary to save a woman’s life.
“Your language played an enormous role in both legal and political fights over banning partial-birth abortion,” Sen. Hatch said during yesterday’s hearings. “The political objective of keeping partial-birth abortion legal appears to have trumped what a medical organization originally wrote and left to its own scientific inquiry and that they had concluded.”
Kagan disputed Hatch’s version of the events, but admitted that she did speak with ACOG to revise the statement. She also refused to take ownership over the memos advocating the less restrictive language.
“What I did was to advance the policy of the president,” she said.
Kagan also said ACOG couldn’t identify any circumstances in which the procedure was the only one that could be used in a given case but could find situations in which it was least riskiest procedure for women, Fox reports.
“There did come a time when we saw a draft statement that stated the first of these things which we knew ACOG to believe, but not the second, which we also knew ACOG to believe,” she said. “And I had some discussions with ACOG about that draft. . . . And so we knew that ACOG thought of both of these things. We informed President Clinton of that fact.”
Kagan said the “disaster” would have been a statement that didn’t reflect the group’s two beliefs.
However, Sen. Hatch wasn’t satisfied with her explanation.
“Well, I’ll tell you this bothers me a lot because I know that there are plenty of doctors in ACOG who did not believe that partial-birth abortion was an essential procedure and who believed that it was really a brutal procedure and it was a constant conflict there,” he said.
“That’s something that does bother me because it would be a disaster, you wrote, because ACOG opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion. If anyone ever found out – and you wrote that it could leak – even if ACOG did not officially release its original statement, it could have negative political consequences,” Hatch said.
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of the pro-life think tank, Americans United for Life, told Fox there were serious discrepancies between Kagan’s statements yesterday and the documented evidence. Yoest, who will testify today on Capital Hill about Kagan, wants senators to ask Kagan why the thought it was appropriate to interfere in the positions of medical organizations.
“Further, does the lack of any evidence of harm to a woman’s health because of the unavailability of partial-birth abortion for the past three years affect her perspective on the issue?” she said. “Does Kagan still believe that partial-birth abortion is necessary to protect a woman’s health? If so, what is her factual basis to support this?”
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