'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harriet Miers is Anti-Choice 

The title of this post probably isn't a big shock to anyone but I thought it needed to be stated bluntly because the corporate press is being annoyingly coy about the issue. Most news accounts since Bush's announcement imply through omission that Miers' views on abortion can only be gleaned indirectly based on statements made by her colleagues and by her association with a Dallas evangelical church. On Good Morning America an angry Sam Brownback threatened to vote against Miers if she views Roe v. Wade as "settled law" (One hopes she does, given that it's, you know, settled law), and CNN assures us that Bush says he "has never discussed abortion with White House counsel Harriet Miers." All of which, of course, hints that maybe there's some doubt about where Miers' stands on this issue.

Here's the story. Miers was a pro-choice Democrat through most of the 70's but had a religious conversion experience in '79 and started drifting rightward; see "Religion played a role in her swing to the right", Newsday. According to the Post, in the 1980's after attending a lecture by a Christian popular science writer named Paul Brand, Miers proclaimed to a friend: "I'm convinced that life begins at conception." Lorlee Bartos, manager of Miers' City Council campaign in 1989, describes Miers views at that time as "on the extreme end of the antichoice movement" and suspects that Miers "is of the same cloth as the president."

In the early 1990's Miers became the president of the Texas State Bar and worked to induce the American Bar Association to repudiate its stance in favor of a woman's right to choose. It is surprising that this project of Miers is not getting more play in the national press given that it occurred relatively recently and that Miers is on record commenting about the failed campaign: (I found the following via a LexisNexis search; can't link to the articles because they're not available for free)

Here's Miers commenting on Darell Jordan, previous president of the Texas Bar who fought against the ABA's initial adoption of the pro-choice position: ("Jordan role lauded, assailed in `90 dispute on abortion", THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, March 31, 1995, Friday)

Harriet Miers, a former Dallas City Council member who was State Bar president in 1992 and 1993, praised Mr. Jordan's actions and contended that they showed he would be a good mayor for Dallas.

"He really is the kind of leader who would take an unpopular position because he thought it was right and fought hard to have it sustained," said Ms. Miers, a co-chairwoman of the Jordan campaign.

Here's an article from the ABA Journal in which Miers is portrayed as the protagonist in the effort to change the ABA's position on abortion: ("No Abortion Debate", ABAJ, 1993)

The ABA House of Delegates narrowly escaped debating abortion at its February meeting in Boston, but the issue should return in August when the delegates gather for the annual meeting in New York.

Saying they wanted to rewrite the proposal, sponsors at the last minute withdrew a resolution calling for a ballot to be mailed to all 370,000 ABA members for a vote on whether the association should be neutral on abortion.

The delay may improve the sponsors' chances in the House. A majority of all 528 delegates would have been needed to order a referendum, not just a majority of those voting. Only 487 attended the midyear meeting, leaving the resolution's sponsors "greatly disadvantaged," said Harriet Miers, president of the State Bar of Texas, the resolution's chief sponsor. More are likely to show up in New York.

Waiting until August also will allow debate by the ABA Assembly, which consists of all ABA members registered for the annual meeting. The Assembly, which advises the House on policy issues, was likely to consider the abortion issue in some form anyway, Miers said.

The ABA Board of Governors weighed in on the issue at the midyear meeting. It recommended that the House reject the referendum plan on the ground that the ABA has a representative government, which already had spoken on abortion.

That, according to the referendum's proponents, is the problem. The House adopted a pro-abortion-rights policy in February 1990, replaced it with a neutrality stance the following August and then adopted another abortion-rights position in August 1992.

Miers said that "the best way to bring closure to this issue" is through a vote of all the members. "We have a referendum procedure, and if we don't use it here, what issue can we use it on?"

Sponsors now will reword the proposed referendum to be sure it focuses on whether the ABA should be involved in the abortion dispute, not the underlying issue of abortion, according to Miers.

The delay also will allow more time to consider ways to cut costs. Estimates presented to the Board of Governors ranged from $75,000 to more than $200,000. Miers told reporters the referendum would cost about $150,000.

And here's a bit in which Miers compares her own attempt to force a referendum among the ABA members to defending the Alamo: ("Abortion Measure Goes Up Against Rules, Apathy", The Recorder, August 10, 1993)

In a bizarre twist of parliamentary procedure, the Texas State Bar's effort to require a referendum on the ABA's final position on abortion was short-circuited Monday. The proposal had been on both the assembly and house of delegates agendas. [ ... ]

ABA President J. Michael McWilliams ruled that Texas could pursue its measure in the assembly if it was amended so that it would be a recommendation to the house. But that status would have required a super-majority -- that's more than half of all house delegates, rather than of those in attendance -- to be approved.

"I remember the Alamo," proponent Texas State Bar past president Harriet Miers said as she withdrew her measure. She said she'd continue the fight today.

"What we have is a playing field coated with butter and I don't think it is tipped in my direction." The referendum is expected to fail in the house.

So assuming she doesn't get hit on the head with a bowling ball or something, I think we can assume the case is closed on this issue. I guess the only real doubt that was cast on the matter was circumstantial doubt based on the fact that Miers did indeed donate money to Al Gore in 1988. The Newsday article that I cited above -- which, of the pieces I have read, does the best job of summarizing who the hell this woman is -- summed up the Gore thing like this,

By 1988, when records show she contributed $3,000 to Democrats including Al Gore's unsuccessful presidential campaign, she was only going through the motions, Hecht and Francis say. "That was a 'have to' deal," Hecht said.

meaning, as stated explicitly earlier in the article, that in 70's/80's Texas milieu if one wanted "to get ahead as a lawyer" one had to be a Democrat and that the Gore contribution should be viewed in that light.

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