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Kagan Testimony Raises Discrepancy on Efforts to Lobby Medical Groups on Partial Birth Abortion

Elena Kagan’s conflicting testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee differs seriously from the documented evidence of her actions in December 1996.

During the Supreme Court nominee’s service in the Clinton White House, she urged the President to oppose any meaningful restrictions on partial-birth abortion.  As part of this effort, our attorneys have learned that Kagan worked to change the positions of two major medical groups – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA). 

Kagan’s response to questions from Senator Orrin Hatch earlier this afternoon that she was simply trying to ensure that ACOG’s full view on partial-birth abortion was made public raises serious discrepancies when contrasted with the timing of her December 1996 amendment, which ACOG adopted in their January 1997 policy statement on partial-birth abortion. 

ACOG’s statement initially gave no indication that they thought partial-birth abortion “may be the best or the most appropriate procedure…to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”  However, after Kagan advocated for the above language, ACOG added her view to their final statement.   

Kagan’s lobbying for changes to medical associations’ positions while in the White House is further evidenced by an email found in her White House documents, where Kagan clearly tried to change the position of another medical group, the American Medical Association (AMA).

When discussing whether the AMA could reverse its policy that there is not an identified situation in which partial-birth abortion is the only appropriate method of abortion, ethical concerns surround it, and that it should not be used unless it is absolutely necessary, Kagan stated: “We agreed to do a bit of thinking about whether we (in truth, HHS) could contribute to that effort [convincing the AMA to reverse their policy]. Chuck and I are meeting with the AG on Tuesday; Donna offered to send over some doctors this week (though we don’t know who or when) to give a medical briefing.” In other words, Kagan was so opposed to the passage of a ban on partial-birth abortion, she hoped that ACOG and the AMA would suppress or modify their views and aggressively worked to make that happen.

Senators need to ask Kagan why she 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?  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?

Written By

Mary Harned serves as Of Counsel at Americans United for Life (AUL).

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