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A ‘Sleeper Issue’? Kagan Urged Clinton to Support Ban on Late-Term Abortions

Posted May 11, 2010 7:10 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Elena Kagan’s stance on the hot-button issue of abortion could be a new issue in her confirmation hearings, now that documents have surfaced in which she urged then-President Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions.

The Associated Press has dislosed the documents written by Kagan in 1997 when she was a domestic policy adviser to Clinton. Kagan urged Clinton to support a compromise bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. Abortion rights groups opposed the measure.

In one memo, Kagan and her supervisor Bruce Reed noted Justice Department objections that the bill was unconstitutional, but said Clinton should support it so Congress would not override the president’s veto of a stricter ban on abortion.

AP calls the memo “more of a political calculation than a legal brief.”

Kagan also recommended support for legislation banning human cloning, AP says.

The Washington Post noted the story, saying Kagan’s abortion views could “become a sleeper issue during the next six weeks, as activists on both the left and the right seek to better understand how the solicitor general might rule on a right to privacy if she is confirmed to the court." The disclosure could concern liberal groups and mute conservative opponents, the newspaper says.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on the CBS Early Show that he didn’t think Kagan’s abortion views would move the Supreme Court to the right on the issue. The CBS News blog Political Hotsheet has the story.

"I don't sense that she would on that issue move the court to the right,” Sessions said. “A 'partial-birth' abortion situation was something that is to me unthinkable that somebody would oppose that, so she was correct on that for sure. But I don't know that that reflects any serious disagreement with the court's view on abortion."

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