- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Harriet Miers vowed in 1989 to support a constitutional amendment that would ban abortions except when required to save the life of the mother, according to documents released by the Bush administration yesterday.

In a survey by Texans United for Life, Miss Miers also promised while running for Dallas City Council to “actively support legislation that would reinstate” Texas’ 1973 abortion law that prohibited all abortions except those necessary to prevent the death of the mother.

Several Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed alarm about the position, and the White House — finally into a fight with liberals after weeks of fighting with fellow conservatives — downplayed their significance.

“What she was doing on that questionnaire was expressing her views during the course of a campaign,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said with a shrug. “The role of a judge is very different from the role of a candidate or a political officeholder.”

The survey was delivered to the Senate yesterday as part of Miss Miers’ response to the routine questionnaire submitted by the Judiciary Committee. It came one day after the White House’s makeover of its nominee had resulted in confusion over her position on abortion.

After meeting with Miss Miers, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter told reporters Tuesday night that the nominee had told him “there is a right to privacy in the Constitution,” the grounds for Roe v. Wade.

According to the senator, Miss Miers also said she agreed with the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which first established the right in the context of contraception. Within hours, Specter spokesman William Reynolds issued a carefully worded clarification:

“In their meeting this afternoon Sen. Specter thought Ms. Harriet Miers said she agreed with Griswold v. Connecticut and there was a right to privacy in the Constitution,” Mr. Reynolds said in the statement. “After Sen. Specter commented on that to the news media, Ms. Miers called him to say that he misunderstood her and that she had not taken a position on Griswold or the privacy issue. Sen. Specter accepts Ms. Miers’ statement that he misunderstood what she said.”

In the questionnaire, Miss Miers also said courts have a “limited” role in government and that “parties should not be able to establish social policy through court action, having failed to persuade the legislative branch or the executive branch of the wisdom and correctness of their preferred course.”

By yesterday afternoon — after the administration released the questionnaire — many of the concerns held by conservative senators began to lift.

“I took some comfort from” her stated position on abortion, said Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a member of the Judiciary Committee and one of the conservatives most skeptical of Miss Miers.

Mr. Brownback said he expects her to minimize the questionnaire by saying it reflects a political position rather than foreshadows how she would rule on Roe v. Wade. Still, he added, “it does reveal some of her beliefs and intentions.”

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who has expressed doubt about the nomination, met with Miss Miers yesterday. He emerged saying he felt a “level of comfort” with her. And Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member, all but endorsed her yesterday.

“I’m not aware of any disqualifying information about her,” he said, though he acknowledged that “she does not have a sufficient and well-formed judicial philosophy.”

Wholesale desertion of the Miers nomination by conservative Republicans such as himself is unlikely, Mr. Sessions said.

One of the few Republicans still raising flags yesterday was Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who said he still has “a lot of questions and some concerns” about whether she has a “consistent philosophy” and “the will to stand up against popular attitudes when they’re not grounded in the Constitution.”

Democrats, who had been holding their fire as conservatives doubted the nominee, suddenly began getting worried yesterday with the release of the abortion questionnaire.

“The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and panel member. “This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard.”

Congressional officials told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that Mr. Specter intends to announce today that four days of confirmation hearings will open the week of Nov. 7. Majority Republicans hope for a full Senate vote by Thanksgiving.

Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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