Senator Orrin Hatch questioned Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this afternoon about Shannen Coffin's report that Kagan, as a policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, had altered a medical group's memo on partial-birth abortion, apparently for political reasons. At issue was a 1996 position paper by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), in which the group claimed that it “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” Partial-birth abortion "may not be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman," ACOG wrote in its original statement (emphasis added). Kagan then apparently edited the word "not" out of the statement to make the statement more favorable for supporters of partial-birth abortion.
Under questioning by Hatch, Kagan said it appeared to be her handwriting but wouldn't directly admit that she edited the memo, as Byron York reports:
“Did you write that memo?” Hatch asked.
“Senator, with respect,” Kagan began, “I don’t think that that’s what happened — ”
“Did you write that memo?”
“I’m sorry — the memo which is?”
“The memo that caused them to go back to the language of ‘medically necessary,’ which was the big issue to begin with — ”
“Yes, well, I’ve seen the document — ”
“But did you write it?”
“The document is certainly in my handwriting.”
Kagan wrote in a different memo in 1996 that ACOG's original paper “would be a disaster.” Kagan said today that she only meant it would be a disaster "if the statement did not accurately reflect all of what ACOG thought," and any edits to ACOG's paper were only to clarify what it really meant.
Shannen Coffin casts doubt on Kagan's defense:
the ACOG task force — formed specifically and solely for the purpose of studying the medical efficacy of the procedure — met for two full days in October 1996, and the result of their collective work was a statement concluding only that it could identify no particular circumstances where the partial-birth method might be the only method to save the health or life of the mother, but that the committee thought it important to leave that judgment to the individual doctors — that is, a policy statement that Congress should stay out of it. After they deliberated in October 1996, the task force forwarded its draft statement to the ACOG board. It was only then that Kagan stepped in to suggest changes.