- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009


President Obama has nominated Dawn E. Johnsen, one of the country’s most radical abortion proponents, to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The nomination should be filibustered to prevent her from filling the post.

This office is important because the person who fills it serves as the legal adviser for the administration’s lawyers. The office interprets law for the attorney general and determines what legal theories can be used to support an administration’s policy initiatives - and this is a problem. Ms. Johnsen’s legal theories are bewildering. We also question her view of veracity.

In a 1989 amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, Ms. Johnsen equated having a baby with slavery. “Statutes that curtail [a woman’s] abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment,” she wrote in regard to Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, “in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.”

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in 1865. The statute Ms. Johnsen opposed was written to limit public funding for abortions. It takes a questionable leap in logic to argue that involuntary servitude results from taxpayer funds not being used for abortion. Even if a woman cannot afford an abortion, the choice to have sex was her own, and that involved the possibility of getting pregnant. Taxpayers had nothing to do with her sexual choices and are not enslaving her by preferring that their money not be used to end her baby’s life.

During her confirmation testimony on Feb. 25, Ms. Johnsen denied her past: “I made no Thirteenth Amendment argument. I can state categorically I do not believe the Thirteenth Amendment is relevant at all.” Pro-choice Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, could not reconcile her testimony with what she previously had written.

Ms. Johnsen’s inability to understand reasonable distinctions is a recurring problem in her advocacies. In a 1996 article for Slate magazine, she argued that parental or judicial consent for a minor to get an abortion guts Roe v. Wade and leaves only a useless “shell” of the original decision. She made this claim without any empirical evidence that abortions by minors fell as a result of the rule. Ms. Johnsen, a law professor at Indiana University, cited a Guttmacher Institute study to justify her claim that such rules “have drastically reduced the number of abortion providers around the country.” We found no such evidence in the Guttmacher Institute report she cited.

Mr. Obama has had an easy time getting nominees confirmed. With a 58-41 Democratic majority in the Senate, Republicans have been reduced to mere spectators. Even unanimous Republican opposition can’t stop a nominee. Ms. Johnsen’s extreme views, willingness to distort information and less than forthright testimony should disqualify her from federal service. Hopefully, Democrats and Republicans can come together to filibuster this radical.

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