Senate Panel OKs Obama’s Pro-Abortion Nominee for Office of Legal Counsel

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Panel OKs Obama’s Pro-Abortion Nominee for Office of Legal Counsel

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 19
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion nominee for the Office of Legal Counsel. In a party line vote, the committee signed off on Dawn Johnsen, a former NARAL attorney, who will become Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Legal Counsel.

Johnsen is currently a professor at the Indiana University School of Law, but she is also a longtime abortion advocate and was the Legal Director for NARAL from 1988-1993.

Johnsen has come under fire for equating pregnancy with slavery and, ironically, a pro-abortion Republican quizzed her about that during the hearing.

The 11-7 vote reflects sharp division over Johnsen’s writings and her position on issues unrelated to pro-life concerns that also upset Senate Republicans on the committee.

She is the first of Obama’s Justice Department nominees not to receive at least one vote from Republican members of the panel. When her nomination comes before the Senate, which will be next week at the earliest, Johnsen will be opposed by most of the chamber’s Republicans.

The only committee member who did not vote on Johnsen’s nomination was Sen. Arlen Specter, who questioned her on the pregnancy-slavery connection she made.

During her hearing, he brought up those comments she had made in a 1989 brief filed in the Supreme Court in the Webster case.

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.

In response to Specter’s criticism, Johnsen dismissed her pregnancy-slavery contention and said it merely came in a footnote in the legal brief. She claims she never “believed the 13th Amendment had any role” in the abortion issue.

However, Johnsen echoed that argument in an interview with Glamour magazine that same year.

Specter declined to vote and said he wanted to hear more from Johnsen about these concerns before voting on her nomination.

After she worked with NARAL, Johnsen served in the Clinton administration as the Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the Office of Legal Counsel from 1997-1998 and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 1993-1996. She also served on the Clinton transition team in 1992.

Wendy Wright, the head of Concerned Women for America, told that Obama’s selection reveals a lot about his pro-abortion views and that Johnsen should be disqualified because of her work with a leading abortion advocacy group.

“NARAL’s obsession with abortion skews its legal positions, blinding it to the Constitution’s equal protection for all human beings," she said. "The fact that Ms. Johnsen worked for NARAL is a huge black mark against her judgment and exposes her bias."

"Americans will not be able to trust that Department of Justice’s legal opinions or Obama’s executive orders comply with the Constitution when the lead person for making that judgment is incapable of treating all human beings with respect," she added.

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