LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.
Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton's presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.
The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.
In a May 13, 1997, memo from the White House domestic policy office, Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, told Clinton that abortion rights groups opposed Daschle's compromise. But they urged the president to support it, saying he otherwise risked seeing a Republican-led Congress override his veto on the stricter bill.
The memo is more of a political calculation than a legal brief, but Kagan and Reed urged Clinton to support the compromise despite noting that the Justice Department believed the proposal was unconstitutional.
"We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto," they wrote.
Kagan also recommended that Clinton support legislation banning human cloning in May 1997. At the time, the scientific and religious communities were abuzz about news that scientists had cloned a sheep, Dolly. The news raised questions about the legal and ethical boundaries of such research.
Kagan and White House science adviser Jack Gibbons urged the president to support a congressional ban on human cloning. Clinton followed that advice but the bill died in Congress.
How fitting, no?
Although I never had any illusions about President Obama and his stand on abortion I still manage to be surprised by the reality that, as far as our dear leaders are concerned, patients are irrelevant and political considerations rule.