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Land ‘disappointed’ as panel OKs Kagan

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday over the opposition of social conservatives and most Republican panel members.

The committee voted 13-6 to forward Kagan’s nomination to the full Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was the lone Republican to join the 12 Democrats on the committee in supporting the nominee.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan — who has yet to serve as a judge — would become the fourth female justice in the high court’s history. She would join Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor to give the court for the first time three female justices simultaneously. Kagan, 50, would replace John Paul Stevens, a longtime member of the court’s liberal bloc.

Social conservatives especially expressed concern about actions in her past roles and statements to the committee that demonstrated support for abortion rights and the homosexual agenda.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told Baptist Press he was “disappointed the Judiciary Committee would send forward her nomination.”

“I’m convinced that most Southern Baptists believe that she is well outside the mainstream of American judicial philosophy and they do not want her elevated to the Supreme Court,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

President Obama thanked the committee for supporting his nominee, calling Kagan in a written statement “one of this country’s leading legal minds [who] has shown throughout this process that, if confirmed, she would be a fair and impartial Supreme Court Justice who understands how decisions made by the Court affect the lives of everyday Americans.”

Kagan has served as Obama’s solicitor general.

Before Kagan’s committee hearing in late June, Land did not oppose her confirmation but urged the panel’s members in a letter to vote “no” if four “troubling issues” were not resolved. He said the ERLC was alarmed she had shown disdain for First Amendment rights, demonstrated a “lack of respect” for unborn babies, promoted the expansion of the homosexual agenda and displayed an admiration for activist judges.

On the morning of the Judiciary Committee’s vote, a letter from Land was delivered to each of the 19 committee members’ offices urging a vote against the nominee. Kagan’s replies during the hearing “only raised more serious questions,” he said in the letter.

“Many of her answers were confusing and unclear,” Land wrote. “She refused to respond to several key questions in an open and honest manner. She also avoided many issues altogether.”

One of the biggest concerns of Land and others was Kagan’s action regarding a proposed ban on partial-birth abortion while she was an adviser to President Clinton.

In the 1990s, she encouraged Clinton to support what pro-lifers described as a “phony ban” on the heinous practice of partial-birth abortion instead of the congressionally approved prohibition he vetoed. That legislation, which eventually became law under President Bush, outlawed a procedure performed on an almost totally delivered baby typically in at least the fifth month of a pregnancy.

Americans United for Life and other pro-lifers also pointed to evidence Kagan successfully lobbied the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association to change their positions on partial-birth abortion in ways that were favorable to the Clinton administration’s efforts to defeat the proposed ban on the procedure.

On the eve of the Judiciary Committee’s vote, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop wrote an open letter urging senators to “reject the politicization of medical science” by voting against Kagan’s nomination.

Kagan “manipulated the medical policy statement” of ACOG in 1997 for political advantage, Koop said. That concession in wording she won from ACOG “made its way into American jurisprudence and misled federal courts for the next decade,” he wrote.

ACOG’s statement ended up saying partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman,” a statement Koop said “had no basis in published medical studies or data” then or now.

“She misrepresented not only the science but also misrepresented her role” to the Judiciary Committee, Koop said. “This is unethical, and it is disgraceful, especially for one who would be tasked with being a measured and fair-minded judge.”

Kagan also has criticized a federal law barring government funds for clinics that promote abortion as a method of family planning and supported the view that cloning of embryos for research is ethical.

As dean at the Harvard School of Law, Kagan kept military recruiters off campus because of her opposition to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring open homosexuals from serving in the armed services.

Her advocacy as solicitor general for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as being between one man and one woman, also has been described as weak by supporters of the measure.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.