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NRL News
Page 7
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

Pro-Abortion Activist, Opposed by NRLC, Withdraws Name for Key Justice Post

WASHINGTON—A prominent pro-abortion activist, nominated by President Obama for one of the top legal jobs in the government but strongly opposed by NRLC, withdrew her name on April 9, after waiting for more than a year for the Senate to vote on her confirmation.

In early 2009, Obama nominated Dawn Johnsen to be the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel (AAG-OLC)—a key official who, according to the Department of Justice, “provides authoritative legal advice to the President and all the Executive Branch agencies.”

Johnsen, currently a law professor at Indiana University, has a long history as a pro-abortion strategist, propagandist, and litigator, including about five years (1988–93) as legal director for the organization then known as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), as well as work on behalf of the ACLU and Abortion Rights Mobilization.

Throughout her career, Johnsen has expressed her opposition to all limitations on abortion in vivid terms, and she has often criticized courts for being, in her view, insufficiently expansive in their application of pro-abortion legal doctrines. For example, Johnsen was the lead author of a brief that claimed that limits on abortion constitute “reducing pregnant women to no more than fetal containers,” and she has stated that “progressives must not portray all abortions as tragedies.”

On March 27, 2009, NRLC sent the first in a series of letters to members of the Senate, urging that Johnsen not be confirmed to the position. “Johnsen’s career as a pro-abortion activist and ideologue suggests that she would use this office as a platform to impose highly ideological constructions on existing statutes . . . dealing with abortion and other right-to-life concerns,” NRLC said in the letter.

Johnsen’s nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a party-line vote on March 4, 2010. But only a single Republican senator, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-In.), ever endorsed the nomination, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.), fearing a successful Republican filibuster, never brought the nomination to the Senate floor.

In an April 9, 2010, statement withdrawing her name from further consideration, Johnsen said, “Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that . . . prevent OLC from functioning at full strength. I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly.”

Pro-life Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, commented, “It is not surprising that the Democrat-controlled Senate never made an effort to bring her nomination to a vote on the floor. Had they done so, the nomination certainly would have faced bipartisan opposition.”

Marge Baker, executive vice president of the group “People for the American Way,” lamented Johnsen’s withdrawal, commenting, “Make no mistake about it; this is the result of the unchecked, reckless obstruction of the GOP.”

President Obama has not yet announced another choice for AAG-OLC.