Obama May Recess Appoint Dawn Johnsen to Overcome Abortion Objections

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 21, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Obama May Recess Appoint Dawn Johnsen to Overcome Abortion Objections

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 21
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — With pro-life advocates objecting to the appointment of pro-abortion lawyer Dawn Johnsen, and because of other political opposition, President Barack Obama may use a recess appointment to make her the head of the office of Legal Counsel.

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

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted last week that Johnsen does not have enough votes to be confirmed.

With Congress soon taking its Memorial Day district work period (recess), there is speculation President Obama will appoint Johnsen during the recess and bypass the Senate confirmation requirement.

A recess appointment would allow Johnsen to head up the legal office until the end of the next session of Congress and then, in January 2011, Obama would have to make a formal appointment and she would be subjected to the same Congressional oversight.

Such a move would undoubtedly be condemned by pro-life advocates, who criticized Reid for repeatedly scheduling pro forma sessions to prevent President Bush from appointing pro-life advocates to various positions and judgeships.

“That would send a pretty bad signal on other nominees,” pro-life Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, told Congressional Quarterly. “I wouldn’t advise him to do that. Patience is what I would recommend.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who also sits on the Judiciary panel, told CQ a recess appointment of Johnsen would “create a lot of irritation” in advance of Obama appointing a Supreme Court nominee to replace outgoing pro-abortion Justice David Souter.

“After all the Democrats’ complaints about putting political people in that office — and then they put one of the most political people they can possibly find in there,” Hatch said.

Johnsen has also come under fire for comparing pregnant women to "fetal containers," labeling pregnant women "losers in the contraceptive lottery," and comparing pro-lifers to the Klu Klux Klan.

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.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Johnsen in February, where she received a party-line 11-7 vote in favor of moving her nomination to the full Senate.

Prior to her working for NARAL, Johnsen worked 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."

ACTION: Contact members of the Senate at https://www.senate.gov and urge strong opposition to Johnsen’s appointment.

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