Indiana Pro-Life Group Upset Dick Lugar Backing Pro-Abortion Dawn Johnsen

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 29, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Indiana Pro-Life Group Upset Dick Lugar Backing Pro-Abortion Dawn Johnsen

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 29
, 2009

Indianapolis, IN ( — Indiana’s statewide pro-life group is distressed that Sen. Dick Lugar, who typically votes pro-life on abortion-related issues, is supporting Dawn Johnsen. She is the former NARAL lawyer whom President Barack Obama named the head of the Office of Legal Counsel.

In that position, Johnsen, who has been condemned for comparing pregnancy to slavery, would provide legal advice to Obama and administration officials.

Despite strong objections from pro-life groups, Senator Lugar announced Tuesday that he will support Johnsen’s nomination because she hails from his state.

Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter told today that Lugar is betraying his own pro-life views and the majority of Hoosiers who oppose abortion.

"Indiana Right to Life is deeply disappointed by Senator Lugar’s support for the controversial nomination of former NARAL counsel Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel," he said.

Fichter called Lugar’s stance an "outright betrayal" of pro-life Indiana residents "who are troubled by Johnsen’s radical support for unrestricted abortion on demand, including the brutal partial-birth abortion procedure."

He said Lugar’s "support for Johnsen might well be considered a betrayal" of pro-life advocates nationwide "since his actions will severely damage efforts to stop Johnsen’s nomination."

"If Johnsen is confirmed, Senator Lugar will need to grapple with the fact that the person he is supporting will work to dramatically expand abortion access in our country while aggressively diminishing the constitutional rights of pro-life persons to speak out for the cause of life," Fichter told "We urge Senator Lugar to reconsider his decision and to rescind his support for Johnsen’s nomination."

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

After that, she 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.

During her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Johnsen came under fire for equating pregnancy with slavery.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee’s ranking Republican at the time, 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.

In an article at National Review, Andrew McCarthy took Johnsen to task for the comparison.

"The Court rejected this farcical theory, just as it has rejected other instantiations of Johnsen’s extremism," McCarthy explained.

"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."

Related web sites:
Indiana Right to Life –

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