Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Obama Pro-Abortion Pick Dawn Johnsen

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Obama Pro-Abortion Pick Dawn Johnsen

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 4
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The Senate Judiciary has confirmed pro-abortion activist Dawn Johnsen, whom President Barack Obama appointed for a powerful Justice Department position. Johnsen’s nomination now heads to the full Senate, where Democrats are battling to stop a filibuster against her.

Johnsen is the radical pro-abortion activist President Barack Obama named to head up the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The post is one of the top legal positions in the federal government and frequently a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

Johnsen’s nomination has been stalled by Republicans and at least one Democrat who are filibustering her nomination because of her out-of-the-mainstream pro-abortion views and on other political issues.

In preparation for that battle, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote with Democrats supportive and Republicans opposed, approved the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

At the end of 2009, the Senate returned her nomination to the White House and President Obama promptly renominated her in January.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue also commented on Johnsen today in an email to

"Why is Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel still being considered?" he asked. "She tried in the late 1980s to take away the tax exempt status of the Roman Catholic Church, all because she wanted to silence the Church’s voice on abortion."

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List also commented on Johnsen.

"In 1988, attorney Dawn Johnsen argued that the Catholic Bishops needed to choose between either having the Catholic Church stripped of its tax-exempt status as a religious organization or keeping their opposition to abortion to themselves. The Catholic Bishops defeated Dawn Johnsen in the Supreme Court Case United States Catholic Conference v. Abortion Rights Mobilization," she explained.

"After the case was concluded, Dawn Johnsen was rewarded for her legal work on the case by being granted the position of legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), where she worked from 1988 – 1993," she continued. "Now, President Barack Obama has re-nominated her to head up the Office of Legal Counsel and is pushing for the Senate to ratify her nomination."

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was thought to be the death knell for her nomination because it would again give opponents enough votes to uphold a filibuster against her — but Obama re-nominated Johnsen anyway

Johnsen made it through the Senate panel on a party-line vote last March but Republican lawmakers had opposed Johnsen over her rabidly pro-abortion position and because of other political issues, such as terrorism.

Johnsen originally found herself the subject of a Republican filibuster supported by a couple of Democrats, but when pro-abortion Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter caved in to a Democratic primary opponent and flip-flopped to supporting her, the Obama administration signaled she would be re-nominated and would get enough votes to overcome the filibuster.

That’s because Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, who normally votes pro-life, says he will support the Johnsen nomination.

Lugar’s press secretary Andy Fisher has confirmed that Lugar "still plans to vote for her."

But, the election of Brown made her confirmation a question and he could provide the 41st vote to support a filibuster because Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, opposes Johnsen’s nomination.

In comments to Roll Call after Brown defeated pro-abortion activist Martha Coakley, Nelson said he didn’t think Johnsen’s nomination stood much of a chance now. He previously cited her pro-abortion record as a reason for opposing her.

Johnsen had been delayed by Republicans who oppose her because she is strongly pro-abortion — going as far as saying pregnant women are subjected to a form of slavery — and because of other political reasons.

If confirmed, Johnsen would be in charge of the office that formulates the attorney general’s formal opinions and provides counsel on the thorniest legal questions.

In a brief filed when she was a lawyer with NARAL, Johnsen cited a footnote that said forcing women to bear children was "disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the 13th Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest."

Johnsen told lawmakers at her hearing that she merely suggested an analogy in the footnote and "never believed the 13th Amendment had any role" in the abortion issue.

The pro-abortion activist has come under fire for calling women "fetal containers" and comparing pregnancy with slavery. She has also come under fire for labeling pregnant women "losers in the contraceptive lottery" and comparing pro-lifers to the Klu Klux Klan.

Johnsen 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.

Johnsen argued in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that denying a pregnant woman the right to demand unrestricted abortion is to subject her to slavery, which was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment after the Civil War.

Some conservative writers have also questioned whether Johnsen has already engaged in some of the duties of the office without being approved.

ACTION: Find contact information for any senator at and urge both of your senators to oppose the Johnsen nomination.

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