Elena Kagan: No Respect for Science

Incendiary memos written by Elena Kagan in 1996 have surfaced from her stint as President Clinton's domestic policy adviser. At that time, Congress was in an uproar over the recently invented technique of partial birth abortion. Many Americans were horrified when they learned about this brutal abortion procedure, in which second and third trimester fetuses were killed by having their brains sucked out and skulls collapsed.

At that time there were no studies on partial birth abortion. It is clear from these documents that a "select panel" convened by ACOG (the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) did not believe that the partial birth abortion was necessary to safeguard maternal life or health. The American Medical Association opposed the procedure. However, President Clinton himself had insisted (inaccurately) that these abortions were done only in extreme circumstances  and were necessary to prevent adverse health consequences for women and preserve their future fertility.  For ACOG to have asserted that there was no medical necessity for the partial birth abortion procedure would have been a political disaster for the Clinton administration.

So Elena Kagan induced ACOG to alter its position. We see in her handwriting the statement

"Although other options are available to save the life or preserve the health of the mother, whether or not the intact D and X (ACOG's name for partial birth abortion) is the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance is a decision that must be made by the doctor."

Her formulation was adopted almost verbatim by ACOG.  It was cited in subsequent court decisions striking down versions of the partial birth abortion bans. One judge's decision presumed ACOG's opinion was the deliberation of an august scientific body, rather than the reflections of a clever political activist .

Of course the illusion that partial birth abortion is a medically necessary procedure could never have been sustained without the willing collusion of ACOG. ACOG, the principal professional organization of the 52,000 U.S. OBGYN physicians, claims to serve as a "strong advocate for quality health care for women." Yet its policies have consistently mirrored the most radical elements of reproductive health ideology, rather than mainstream medical opinion.

Advocacy of partial birth abortion is not ACOG's only position contrary to sound science and medicine. When the Clinton administration imported RU-486 abortions from Europe into the U.S., the initial clinical trials included safeguards such as ultrasound to rule out tubal pregnancy and close physician supervision. However, under pressure from Barbara Boxer, who called the safety provisions "draconian" and ACOG's purportedly scientific recommendations, the FDA removed these safety provisions. A number of deaths occurred in the U.S. shortly after release as a result of the conversion of RU-486 abortion to essentially a do-it-yourself procedure.  ACOG also has repeatedly failed to officially recognize the adverse psychological sequelae of abortion on women and their families, as well as abortion as a major cause of preterm birth and cerebral palsy despite hundreds of studies demonstrating these adverse effects.

Medical and legal authorities betray the public trust when they act on the basis of their political ideologies rather science and the law. There is good reason to fear a Kagan appointment to the Supreme Court. Her admiration for the activist Israeli judge Aharon Barak - her "judicial hero" - is extremely troubling. Her demonstrated willingness to disregard the boundary between medical science and extremist political ideology suggests that, contrary to her protestations, that she is likely to blur the boundary between the law and her leftist politics if she becomes a Supreme Court justice.

See also: Kagan's 'smoking gun' abortion document

Dr. Davenport is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and president-elect of the American Academy of Prolife OBGYNs. The views expressed here are her own.
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