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Miers indicated she supported the banning of most abortions
WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, according to material given to the Senate on Tuesday.
As a candidate for the Dallas city council, Miers also signaled support for the overall agenda of Texans United for Life -- agreeing she would support legislation restricting abortions if the Supreme Court ruled that states could ban abortions and would participate in "pro-life rallies and special events."
Miers made her views known in a candidate questionnaire the White House submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold hearings on her Supreme Court nomination next month. The questionnaire was filled out, but unsigned, although the Bush administration affirmed its authenticity.
"The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and only woman on the Judiciary Committee. "This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard. It will be my intention to question her very carefully about these issues."
GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn of Texas, who support Miers, say the questionnaire was written while Miers was a politician, and she would leave political decisions behind as a judge. "That information is interesting, and some people may draw their own conclusions from it, but I believe that Harriet Miers will be the type of judge who will not attempt to pursue a personal or political agenda from the bench," Cornyn said.
That view was echoed at the White House where presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said that Miers answered the questions as a candidate during the course of a campaign.
"The role of a judge is very different from the role of a candidate or a political officeholder," McClellan said.
"Harriet Miers, just like Chief Justice [John] Roberts, recognizes that personal views and ideology and religion have no role to play when it comes to making decisions on the bench," he said. "Your role as a judge is to look at all the facts and look at the law and apply the law to that case."
The questionnaire also revealed that the White House was considering Miers for its first Supreme Court nomination along with now-Chief Justice John Roberts.
"When Justice Sandra Day O'Connor first announced her desire to retire, I was asked whether my name should be considered," she said in the questionnaire. "I indicated at that time that I did not want to be considered."
The document surfaced as the White House struggled to reassure conservatives who have been critical of Miers' appointment, depicting her as a crony of President Bush who lacks the background or qualifications to sit on the high court.
There was fresh evidence of trouble for Miers during the day, when Sen. David Vitter, R-La., issued a statement saying, "My top questions are: does she have a consistent and well-grounded conservative judicial philosophy and what objective evidence is there of it from her life's work?"
Miers, 60, meanwhile, continued meeting privately with senators during the day, part of a round of courtesy calls that precede the opening of confirmation hearings.
"With her conservative judicial philosophy, she understands that judges must not legislate from the bench," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice and a Miers supporter. "And while she may hold personal views that underscore the value of human life, it would be wrong for those views to be used against her in the confirmation process."
The 1989 questionnaire was designed to gauge candidates' views on the drive to ban most abortions, either by constitutional amendment or by state law in the event the Supreme Court overturned a 1973 ruling that established abortion rights.
"If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature," asked an April 1989 questionnaire sent out by the Texans United for Life group.
Miers checked "yes" to that question, and all of the group's questions, including whether she would oppose the use of public moneys for abortions and whether she would use her influence to keep "pro-abortion" people off city health boards and commissions.
The abortion issue hangs over Miers' nomination much as it did over the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts earlier this year. The situations are different, however -- Roberts replaced the late William Rehnquist, who voted to overturn the 1973 abortion ruling. Miers would succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has voted to uphold it.
"A candidate taking a political position in the course of a campaign is different from the role of a judge making a ruling in the judicial process." said Jim Dyke, a White House spokesman.
Miers' nomination has been met with skepticism from some conservatives, who say she has little by way of a record to establish her views on abortion, affirmative action and other issues. The Texans United for Life questionnaire is additional evidence of how Miers feels about abortion, with some of her supporters assuring conservatives that they believe she would overturn the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
Miers also bought a $150 ticket to a Texans United for Life dinner in 1989 and took a leadership role in trying to get the American Bar Association to reconsider its abortion-rights position in 1993.
Senators say Miers has insisted that she has not given anyone any assurances that she would overturn Roe v. Wade if given the chance.
"She said nobody knows my views on Roe v. Wade. Nobody can speak for me on Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday, referring to the case that guaranteed women's constitutional right to an abortion, setting a legal precedent that abortion foes have been trying to overturn ever since.
In the questionnaire that she turned in the Judiciary Committee, Miers answered "no" to questions asking whether anyone during the nomination process discussed specific cases or legal issues with her to get an assurance on her positions. She also answered "no" to whether she told anyone how she might rule if confirmed.
Miers also revealed that her law license was suspended in the District of Columbia earlier this year for non-payment of bar dues. "I immediately sent the dues to remedy the delinquency," she wrote. "The nonpayment was not intentioned, and I corrected the situation upon receiving the letter."
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Elizabeth White contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Documents including the full questionnaire, financial disclosures and the TULPAC letter are available at: http://wid.ap.org/documents/scotus/miers/index.html
White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov