President Obama’s Pro-Abortion Legal Counsel Pick Sees Pregnancy as Slavery

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Obama’s Pro-Abortion Legal Counsel Pick Sees Pregnancy as Slavery

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — With his appointment of Dawn Johnsen, a former NARAL attorney, as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Legal Counsel, pro-life advocates already know they are getting an abortion advocate in the position. But, Johnsen goes further and views pregnancy as slavery.

Johnsen is a professor at the Indiana University School of Law, but she is also a longtime abortion advocate and worked for one of the leading abortion advocacy groups.

Johnsen was the Legal Director for NARAL from 1988-1993.

In an article at National Review, Andrew McCarthy describes the importance of the Office of Legal Counsel.

"OLC, a critically important agency, is the administration’s lawyers’ lawyer," he says. "It authoritatively interprets the law for the attorney general and, in doing so, drives administration legal policy."

"OLC’s credibility is derived from its reputation for apolitical, academic discipline — its commitment to informing policymakers of what the law is, rather than what staffers believe the law should be. Johnsen is, for that reason, a poor fit: She is an ideologue, and an unabashed one," he explains.

McCarthy says that Johnsen’s view of pregnancy as slavery wasn’t just an off-the-cuff remark.

"It was her considered position in a 1989 brief filed in the Supreme Court," he explains, and the legal papers she filed concerned a Missouri law banning taxpayer funding of abortions.

In the papers, Johnsen said that any restriction that makes abortion less accessible is, in her view, tantamount to “involuntary servitude” because it “requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest [in the life of the unborn].”

In effect, a woman “is constantly aware for nine months that her body is not her own: the state has conscripted her body for its own ends.” Such “forced pregnancy,” she contends, violates the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibits slavery.

"The Court rejected this farcical theory, just as it has rejected other instantiations of Johnsen’s extremism," McCarthy explains in his National Review column.

"In reputable private law offices and U.S. attorney’s offices throughout the country, adult supervision would prevent such a lunatic analogy from finding its way into a letter to a lower-court judge, much less into a Supreme Court brief," he added. "Obama, however, is proposing that Johnsen be the adult supervision at Justice. He would fill a position calling for dispassionate rigor with a crusader for whom strident excess is habitual."

Johnsen goes further and she insisted in her legal papers that, without government-provided abortion counseling, a large number of women would be left without “proper information about contraception.” This, she claimed, would mean they “cannot be said to have a meaningful opportunity to avoid pregnancy.”

McCarthy responds: "The usual rejoinder to such reasoning is that nobody is forcing these women to have sex."

He also explains that, with Johnsen giving the president legal advice, she will surely tell him that any judicial pick — from Supreme Court on down — must adhere to a pro-abortion mantra.

"Moreover, as she declaimed in a 2006 op-ed opposing Samuel Alito’s confirmation, opposition to all restrictions on abortion — not just acceptance of Roe v. Wade — should be a litmus test for judicial nominees," McCarthy says.

Johnsen wrote: "The notion of legal restrictions as some kind of reasonable ‘compromise’ — perhaps to help make abortion ‘safe, legal, and rare proves nonsensical.”

Ultimately, McCarthy says he understands the attraction Johnsen has for Obama.

"Johnsen’s attraction for Obama is obvious. The principal target of her Webster brief was the settled principle that the Constitution’s recognition of various fundamental rights (and the judicial invention of such ‘rights’ as abortion) does not confer an entitlement to governmental aid to exercise those rights," he explains. "For Johnsen, this is anathema, the denial of ‘economic justice’ and thus of equal protection."

"In Dawn Johnsen’s dizzying jurisprudence, government has no business invading individual privacy and regulating abortion but is obliged to coerce taxpayers into underwriting abortions as a first step in what she unapologetically calls ‘the progressive agenda’ of ‘universal health care,’" McCarthy adds.

Economic justice is a favorite phrase of Obama’s and universal health care is one of his prime goals.

ACTION: Contact members of the Senate at and urge strong opposition to Johnsen’s appointment.

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