Shannen Coffin was a deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, and was charged with defending the federal partial-birth abortion act in court. At National Review, he writes that documents released by the Clinton White House show Elena Kagan’s “willingness to manipulate medical science to fit the Democratic party’s political agenda on the hot-button issue of abortion.” The account, if it is true, is a shocking one.
A key event in the politics of partial-birth abortion was a report by a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ organization. That report included this statement, which the Supreme Court found highly persuasive in striking down Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban:
ACOG declared that the partial-birth-abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” The Court relied on the ACOG statement as a key example of medical opinion supporting the abortion method.
Here is the shocking part: the ACOG report, as originally drafted, said almost exactly the opposite. The initial draft said that the ACOG panel “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” That language horrified the rabidly pro-abortion Elena Kagan, then a deputy assistant to President Clinton for domestic policy. This is what Kagan wrote in a memo to her superiors in the Clinton White House:
Todd Stern just discovered that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is thinking about issuing a statement (attached) that includes the following sentence: “[A] select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which [the partial-birth] procedure … would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” This, of course, would be disaster — not the less so (in fact, the more so) because ACOG continues to oppose the legislation. It is unclear whether ACOG will issue the statement; even if it does not, there is obviously a chance that the draft will become public.
So Kagan took matters into her own hands: incredibly, she herself appears to have written the key language that eventually appeared in the ACOG report. Coffin writes:
So Kagan set about solving the problem. Her notes, produced by the White House to the Senate Judiciary Committee, show that she herself drafted the critical language hedging ACOG’s position. On a document [PDF] captioned “Suggested Options” — which she apparently faxed to the legislative director at ACOG — Kagan proposed that ACOG include the following language: “An intact D&X [the medical term for the procedure], however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.”
Kagan’s language was copied verbatim by the ACOG executive board into its final statement, where it then became one of the greatest evidentiary hurdles faced by Justice Department lawyers (of whom I was one) in defending the federal ban. (Kagan’s role was never disclosed to the courts.)
This is an image of Kagan’s “suggested options” note; click to enlarge:
The note does appear to be in Kagan’s handwriting; you can see a sample of her writing here.
Unless there is some other interpretation of these documents that does not occur to me, it appears that Elena Kagan participated in a gigantic scientific deception. On behalf of the Clinton White House, she deliberately subverted what was supposed to be an objective scientific process. The ACOG report was certainly seen in that light by the federal courts. Federal Judge Richard Kopf was deeply impressed by the scientific integrity of the report; he wrote:
“Before and during the task force meeting,” he concluded, “neither ACOG nor the task force members conversed with other individuals or organizations, including congressmen and doctors who provided congressional testimony, concerning the topics addressed” in the ACOG statement.
This statement was obviously false. The federal courts were victimized by a gross deception and a perversion of both the scientific process and the judicial process, carried out, the evidence appears to show, by Elena Kagan.
Ms. Kagan has a great deal of explaining to do. Unless she can come up with an innocent explanation for these documents, she should not be confirmed.
UPDATE: Kagan was asked about this issue in today’s hearing; did she come up with an innocent explanation? I evaluate her answers here.