LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, putting the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents are from Clinton’s presidential library.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

In a May 13, 1997, memo from the White House domestic policy office, Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, told Clinton that abortion rights groups opposed Daschle’s compromise. But they urged the president to support it, saying he otherwise risked seeing a GOP-led Congress override his veto on the stricter bill.

Clinton generally supported banning late-term abortions but insisted there be an exception when the mother’s health was at risk.

Because Kagan never sat as a judge, she does not have the typical history of court opinions and legal briefs. That has made it hard to assess her legal acumen or ideology.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said, “Judges confront issues differently than staff attorneys for an administration.” He noted Chief Justice John Roberts made a similar point during his nomination when he was questioned about positions he took as an attorney in the Reagan administration’s Justice Department.

Kagan and Reed urged Clinton to support the compromise despite noting that the Justice Department believed the proposal was unconstitutional.




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