Roundup: Getting To Know Kagan

Robin Marty

Everyone claims she's an enigma in a dowdy suit, but after this weekend, maybe we know the Supreme Court nominee a little better.

We’ve learned she plays softball.  We’ve learned fashion isn’t her highest priority.  And we’ve learned over and over again that she is *gasp!* unmarried and has no children.  Now, we are learning a bit more useful information about Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan. 

One thing that may be more reassuring to pro-choice advocates are some newly released documents detailing policy issues that Kagan weighed in on during her time in the Clinton administration.  According to CBS news:

When Congress passed the partial-birth abortion ban without a narrow exception to protect a woman’s health, for example, she helped defend President Clinton’s veto. In the files are letters from Clinton to various religious leaders, explaining why he vetoed the ban.

And when Congress was poised to pass a law making it a crime to take minors across state lines for abortions without parental consent, she worked to find political solutions to oppose it — such as getting statistics on how many grandmothers cared for teenagers and could technically be sent to jail under the law.

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However, her personal positions may still be somewhat murky.  As explains,

[D]ivining Kagan’s personal views from the documents is difficult because her own position is not always clear. Even when it is, current White House aides pushing for her confirmation say the stances she took may simple demonstrate her advocacy for Clinton’s positions rather than any views of her own.

“The documents reflect Kagan’s efforts to advance President Clinton’s well-established policy agenda, and they should not be interpreted as an outline of her personal positions on specific policy issues,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

LaBolt pointed to comments by a Bush administration policy official, Tevi Troy, who said such internal memos tend to “synthesize the views of the various administration players” rather than offering “full-throated defenses of [an aide’s] personal beliefs.”

As a justice, how much should her own personal opinion matter, as opposed to simply interpreting the constitution?  When it comes to conservative judges, it seems that personal beliefs rule, but with progressive candidates all personality should be pushed under and never used to reflect on rulings. And in that line, Kagan’s image appears to be intact.  The keywords are moderate, temperate, and pragmatic. 

From the Associated Press:

Newly released documents from her days as an aide to former President Bill Clinton portray Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a person of strong opinions and sometimes overtly liberal views, but above all a pragmatist who pursued middle-ground solutions on issues ranging from abortion to taking on Big Tobacco.

There’s little in the papers that suggests Kagan, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, would stray far from Stevens’ perch on the left of the political spectrum.

In 46,500 pages of notes and memos from her time as a domestic policy adviser to Clinton, Kagan argues in favor of a veto of a late-term abortion ban, for strong gun control measures, against a federal law prohibiting assisted suicide and endorses a legal argument for affirmative action.

But she tempers much of her advice with strong notes of political and legal practicality, often opting for a middle course likely to produce results without unduly angering opponents.

In another A.P. article, the same reporter reiterates:

On the late-term abortion bill, “I support an exception that takes effect only when a woman faces real, serious health consequences,” Kagan handwrote on the draft of a letter Clinton was penning to a Catholic bishop dismayed by the veto.

That position angered both abortion rights proponents and foes. But it was typical of a pragmatic streak in Kagan, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, that’s evident throughout the newly released records.

But although the news media can repeat “moderate and pragmatic” until they are blue in the face, that will never call off the foaming attack dogs of the conservative movement.  Via CNN:

“As we suspected, President Obama nominated a far left liberal who supports both abortion and ‘gay marriage,'” said Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America. “Elena Kagan has also demonstrated her disdain for the unborn, the most vulnerable in our society.”

Mini Roundup: A National Post columnist claims erroneously that United States abortion laws are in essence as liberal as Canada’s, Catholics continue to claim Sister Margaret McBride excommunicated herself, and both mother and baby in Arizona should have died, and Radiance Foundation puts up a new billboard.

June 4, 2010

Anti-Abortion Measures on the Upswing – TIME

Fort Wayne Abortion Law Challenged – Courthouse News Service

McCollum pressuring Crist to sign abortion-ultrasound bill – Orlando Sentinel

Abortion Initiative Can Appear on August Ballot – Courthouse News Service

Kagan documents reveal sensible approach on abortion – CNN

DOJ: UW May Be Improperly Paying for Abortion Training – WTAQ

South Carolina Republicans Back Down From Abortion Restrictions to Pass Budget – Ms. Magazine

Kagan on abortion, assisted suicide in files – The Associated Press

Parental Notification Initiative to Appear on the Alaska Ballot – Ms. Magazine

Kagan pushed liberal policies with pragmatism – The Associated Press

In Europe, all quiet on the abortion front – Globe and Mail

Kan. abortion doctor’s killer’s petition dismissed – Washington Post

Kagan Docs Show Support For Affirmative Action – CBS News

Billboards Expose Racism in Abortion and Adoption – The New American

Church’s stance on abortion is clear – Arizona Republic

Male-female birth ratio improves in China – Sify

Tiny pill combats climate change – Toowoomba Chronicle

Study Shows Alarming Teen Views on Pregnancy, Contraception – U.S. News & World Report

For Women, the Ultimate in Preventive Health Care: Birth Control – Huffington Post

Namibian health ministry accused of forcibly sterilising women with HIV – Times LIVE

Circumcision may prevent sex-related penis injuries – Reuters

Most People With HIV Begin Care Too Late – U.S. News & World Report

After 25 Million Deaths, Search Continues for HIV Vaccine – USAID

June 5, 2010

Parnell Denali KidCare Veto Protested – KTVA CBS 11 News Alaska

McCollum pushes proposed abortion bill –

KidCare spent $384K on ‘abortion related services’ in ’09 – Anchorage Daily News

GOP gov. hopefuls would sign abortion overturn – Aiken Standard

Maternal health care plan endangered by PM’s beliefs – Vancouver Sun

Kagan voice of caution, WH files show – The Free Lance-Star

Illegal Abortions In Brazil Put Women’s Lives At Risk: Catholic Church Cheers – Blue Wave News

Is the shine coming off Stephen Harper’s summit spotlight? – Toronto Star

Pro-lifers protest birth control – OneNewsNow

The pill kills the truth – RenewAmerica

Fifty years of the pill – The Guardian

Women prefer pill as the No. 1 contraceptive –

Delivering a better future for women and girls – East African

CDC estimates HIV will infect 1 in 16 US black men –

June 6, 2010

Court decision, Parnell veto put abortion on the ballot this fall – KTUU

Protect the mother and child, you protect the country – The Hindu

Planned Parenthood officials: No ‘blueprint’ for abortion care – Dubuque Telegraph Herald

Florida abortion bill with sonogram requirement nears decision by governor – Palm Beach Post

Christian law group may defend Allen Co. from suit – CNBC

Harper missing women’s health summit – Toronto Star

HIV vaccine — keeping hope alive – The Zimbabwe Standard

Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival: Celebrating Progress, Continuing the Fight – Huffington Post

June 7, 2010

Pregnant Teens Still Face Stigma, Isolation, Even Death – Jakarta Globe

Harper scores foreign policy victories in lead-up to summits – Globe and Mail

Women Undergoing IVF, Get Abortions on Second Thoughts – TopNews United Kingdom

Alaska Gov. Parnell vetoes bill to extend health care program over abortion –

Vasectomy and Oral Pills: Take Them or Not? – TopNews United Kingdom

HIV babies’ lives at risk in drug giant’s plans to close factory, claim NGOs – The Guardian

Women Deliver 2010: Lot more needs to be done – Arab News

Hospital brings back midwife births – Ottawa Citizen

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