Kagan: ‘I Had No Agenda’ on Partial-Birth Abortion in Clinton White House

By Matt Cover | July 1, 2010 | 9:22 PM EDT

President Barack Obama introduces Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice for Supreme Court Justice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday May 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) -- Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said she “had no agenda” during the debate over the partial-birth abortion ban of 1996 – a debate that eventually led then-President Bill Clinton to veto the ban after originally supporting it, at a time when Kagan served as associate counsel to President Clinton.
Kagan, answering questions from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday, said she was merely an advocate for Clinton’s position on the issue – that partial-birth abortion should be banned except when necessary to save the life of the mother.
Memos released by the Clinton Presidential Library show that Kagan was involved in helping to shape President Clinton’s public position on partial-birth abortion and in behind-the-scenes communications with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which issued a public statement on the issue.
Senator Graham questioned Kagan about her actions in relation to ACOG.

Sen. Graham: “There’s a memo that we have here that talks about if certain phrases were used by the, what was the group, ACOG, what was the acronym?”
Kagan: “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”
Sen. Graham: “As I understand it, they were going to issue a statement that you thought would be a ‘disaster’ and you wanted to get the full statement into place. Was that because you were worried that if you didn’t get what you wanted in place, the [Supreme] Court might seize upon that statement and make a different ruling, based on science?”
Kagan: “No sir, it was not.”
Sen. Graham: “Well, Ms. Kagan, I’m shocked that you say that because if I believed the way you do, that’s exactly what I would want. If I really did believe that partial-birth abortion as being proposed was too restrictive -- and I think you honestly believe that you wanted to have the broadest definition possible when it came to partial-birth abortion to allow more cases rather than less – then I would have been motivated to get the language most favorable to me.”
Sen. Graham: “Are you saying you weren’t motivated to do that?”
Kagan: “Senator, I was working for a president who had clear views on this subject.”
Sen. Graham: “But you were trying to take him to an area where he even felt a bit uncomfortable. You were advocating – from what I can tell – a broader view of how partial-birth abortion would be interpreted. When you met with the professional community of doctors they informed you early on in a private meeting – according to the record we have – that there would be very few cases where an abortion would be allowed under the way this thing [partial-birth abortion ban] was written.”
Sen. Graham: “And [for] somebody with your background and your view of this issue, to me, this would seem disturbing and you were trying to change that and broaden it, is that not true?”
Kagan: “With respect, senator, it’s not true. I had no agenda with respect to this issue.”
Graham reacted to the statement with incredulity, admonishing Kagan – currently the nation’s Solicitor General – for claiming that she had “no agenda.” Graham said that any executive branch employee should have an agenda and that that agenda should be the same as their employer – the President.
Sen. Graham: “Wait, wait. I certainly have an agenda when it comes to an abortion. I respect the courts but I’m trying to push the rights of the unborn in a respectful way. You can be pro-choice and be just as patriotic as I am. You can be just as religious as anybody I know. But that’s the point here. It is okay, as an advocate, to have an agenda.”
Sen. Graham: “I think [Justices] Alito and Roberts had an agenda. They were working for a conservative president who was putting conservative policies [in place]. So it just is a bit disturbing that you, quite frankly, say you don’t have an agenda when you should have had. If I’m going to hire you to be my lawyer I want you to have an agenda [and] I want it to be my agenda.”
Kagan: “I was trying to implement the agenda of the United States president, whom I worked for.”
Sen. Graham: “Did you have a personal belief that [the] partial-birth abortion [ban], as it was being proposed, was too restrictive on a woman’s right to choose?”
Kagan: “I was, at all times, trying to ensure that President Clinton’s views and objectives with respect to this issue were carried forward. President Clinton had strong views – “
Sen. Graham: “Here’s the difference between being a lawyer and a policy person in a political shop. I just wanna’ try the best that I can -- it’s okay if you did [have an agenda]. I expect that presidents are going to hire talented, intellectually gifted people who think like they do [and] that will push the envelope when it comes to the law. And the record is replete here, on this issue and others, you were pushing the envelope in terms of the left side of the aisle.”