Coburn Says Republicans Would Like to Hold Inquiry into Kagan’s Involvement With ACOG/Partial Birth Abortion Issue

By Jane McGrath | August 4, 2010 | 8:58am EDT

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. speaks during a health care news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( - Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that Republicans would look into Elena Kagan’s role in adding a key amendment to a medical group’s statement on partial birth abortion – if only they could.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued the statement on partial-birth abortion in 1997, when Kagan – now a Supreme Court nominee – was working in the Clinton White House.
Following a press conference Tuesday, asked Sen. Coburn, “Given Elena Kagan’s testimony regarding ACOG, should there be a congressional inquiry into whether ACOG altered its policy position on partial birth abortion in light of her communication?”
Sen. Coburn initially said he wanted to know ACOG’s side of the story: “I think it’d be interesting if you asked them if they did (alter their policy position), because I think you’ll get a different answer than she gave.” told Coburn that ACOG would not respond to its questions and asked the senator again whether the situation warrants an inquiry.
“I’ll tell you,” responded Sen. Coburn, “if we were running the Senate, we’d have the inquiry.”
As previously reported, Clinton Library documents released after Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court reveal that ACOG sent the Clinton White House a draft of its “Statement on Intact Dilatation and Extraction” in December 1996.
A memo written by Kagan, who was working as Associate White House Counsel at the time, stated that it would be a “disaster” if the ACOG draft were released because it said a panel convened by ACOG “could identify no circumstances under which [the partial-birth] procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”
Kagan admitted in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that her handwritten notes reveal “suggested options,” one of which was later incorporated into ACOG’s final statement.
Her notes suggest adding the wording, “An intact D&X, however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” This sentence was added to the ACOG statement and later quoted in the Supreme Court opinion Stenberg v. Carhart, which overturned Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban.
Kagan also admitted in her testimony – under questioning by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) -- that “we did indeed speak with ACOG.”
Kagan told Hatch, “What ACOG thought and always conveyed to us was two things. What ACOG thought was that on the one hand, they couldn’t think of a circumstance in which this (partial birth abortion) procedure was the absolute only procedure that could be used in a given case. But second, on the other hand, that they could think of circumstances in which it was the medically best or medically most appropriate procedure, that it was the procedure with the least risk attached to it in terms of preventing harm to the woman’s health.”
Kagan told Sen. Hatch, “there was no way in which I would have or could have intervened with ACOG, which is a respected body of physicians, to get it to change its medical views on the question.” left a voicemail and sent an email to ACOG’s communication department requesting a comment on the senator’s remarks but has not received a response.

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