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Senate panel OKs former abortion rights advocate

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved March 19 a former official with a leading abortion rights organization to an influential post in the Department of Justice.

The Democratic-controlled committee sent President Obama’s nomination of Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to the full Senate with a party-line, 11-7 vote. As assistant attorney general in charge of the OLC, Johnson would provide “authoritative legal advice” to the president and all executive branch agencies, according to the Department of Justice.

From 1988 to 1993, Johnsen served as legal director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, now known as NARAL Pro-choice America. NARAL is one of the country’s leading abortion rights advocacy organizations. Before her NARAL tenure, Johnsen worked in 1987-88 with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. She served at DOJ during President Clinton’s administration from 1993 to 1998.

“NARAL’s obsession with abortion skews its legal positions, blinding it to the Constitution’s equal protection for all human beings,” Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said after Johnsen’s nomination, according to LifeNews.com. “The fact that Ms. Johnsen worked for NARAL is a huge black mark against her judgment and exposes her bias.

“Americans will not be able to trust that [the] Department of Justice’s legal opinions or Obama’s executive orders comply with the Constitution when the lead person for making that judgment is incapable of treating all human beings with respect,” Wright said.

The Judiciary Committee’s forwarding of Johnsen’s nomination came on the same day the full Senate confirmed Elena Kagan as solicitor general with a 61-31 vote, with all “nay” votes coming from Republicans. As solicitor general, Kagan will represent the U.S. government in cases before the Supreme Court.

The nomination of Kagan, who served most recently as dean of Harvard Law School, drew opposition from some pro-life and pro-family organizations.

“In the past Kagan has been a strong supporter of the pro-abortion agenda,” the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List said in a written statement after her confirmation. “She has vigorously opposed the defunding of taxpayer-funded clinics which promote abortions, despite the fact that a majority of Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund abortion providers.”

Kagan also has opposed the federal government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars homosexuals from open military service.

Kagan and Johnsen are two of four Obama nominees to the DOJ who have received criticism from social conservatives.

On March 12, the Senate confirmed the other two, David Ogden as deputy attorney general, DOJ’s No. 2 post, and Thomas Perrelli as associate attorney general, the No. 3 spot.

Ogden filed legal briefs on behalf of or represented clients who opposed anti-obscenity and anti-pornography policies. Among his clients were Playboy and PHE, Inc., one of the country’s largest distributors of hard-core pornography.

Perrelli was a member of the legal team that successfully represented Terri Schiavo’s husband, Michael, in his successful attempt to have his brain-damaged wife taken off a feeding tube to hasten her death in 2005.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. With reporting by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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