NARAL Mobilizes for Johnsen, Other Obama Nominees

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Civil rights groups aren’t the only organizations rallying behind Dawn Johnsen. Women’s organizations are getting involved as well. Last week, the group NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that it would be mobilizing activists and supporters to help confirm not just Johnsen, but two other Obama nominees–Judge David Hamilton nominated to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius, nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Johnsen served as legal director for NARAL from 1988-1993 during which time she filed a brief which contained a footnote arguing that forcing a woman to carry a child to term against her will is “disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude”. The quote has raised the ire of conservative groups and Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter who met with Johnsen last week to discuss that and other issues.

The group comes to the defense of their former colleague at a time when reports suggest that Republicans are contemplating a filibuster of her appointment.

NARAL’s full statement follows below. Back in February, the umbrella group civilrights.org sent a letter to Specter and Judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy urging them to support Johnsen’s nomination. Among the signatories were NARAL, the National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said her organization is mobilizing its nationwide network of activists and supporters to call on the U.S. Senate to confirm three Obama nominees–Judge David Hamilton, Prof. Dawn Johnsen, and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius–and stop anti-choice attacks on these nominees simply because of their previous pro-choice positions.

Anti-choice organizations and their allies in Congress have lobbed outrageous attacks at Gov. Sebelius, President Obama’s nominee to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, because of her pro-choice record. Their vitriol has been even more heated when directed toward Judge Hamilton and Prof. Johnsen. Today’s New York Times and other media reported that anti-choice senators are threatening a filibuster to block Prof. Johnsen, who has been nominated to lead the office of legal counsel at the Justice Department, and Judge Hamilton, who is President Obama’s pick for a seat on a federal appeals court.

“The use of the ‘f’ word when referring to any of these nominees is unacceptable–and this threat will not go unanswered,” Keenan said. “America’s pro-choice majority will fight back against anti-choice senators’ attempts to block these three highly qualified pro-choice nominees. Our activists will make it clear to their senators that derailing nominees for critical positions in the Obama administration and in the federal courts simply because they have taken pro-choice positions is not an option. We will keep up the pressure until we go three for three and see these distinguished nominees confirmed by the Senate.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Choice Action Network consists of more than 550,000 email activists in all 50 states, including large contingencies in Pennsylvania, Maine, and other states with senators whose votes are crucial to all three nominations. The organization’s Three-for-Three campaign will begin this week and continue through the two-week congressional recess.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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