Time ignored relevant evidence in presenting Miers's "paper trail" on abortion

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

A Time magazine article by Jyoti Thottam, which will appear in the October 17 edition but was posted online on October 9, purported to offer readers a look at the "scant evidence" -- including interviews with colleagues and former associates -- regarding Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's views on the legal issues of the day. On the contentious topic of abortion, however, the article merely highlighted Miers's past objections to the American Bar Association's official endorsement of a constitutional right to abortion and reported that "she never stated her underlying position on abortion." But Time ignored additional evidence, including recently reported interviews with acquaintances who claim to have discussed the issue with her, suggesting Miers may strongly oppose abortion rights.

Nathan Hecht, a member of the Texas Supreme Court and close friend of Miers, has repeatedly said in recent interviews that she is "pro-life." On the October 6 broadcast of NBC's Today, Hecht again affirmed that Miers opposes abortion, although he stated that her personal views do not necessarily guarantee that she would vote to overturn the landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade if confirmed to the Supreme Court:

KATIE COURIC (co-host): Now, needless to say, as you well know, Judge Hecht, many people are wondering about her views on a variety of hot-button social issues. I guess first and foremost, how she feels about abortion and Roe vs. Wade. A quote from you that ran yesterday on this program said, "Harriet and I have attended pro-life dinners in Dallas years ago. She attends an evangelical church in Dallas when she's there and has for 25 years. That takes a very strong pro-life position. Well, I think she's pro-life." Have the two of you ever discussed her views on abortion? Or are you assuming because she's a member of this church, she shares the views of that church?

HECHT: Oh, we've probably talked about it some. But I mean, I think her commitment to the church and just what I know about her, she's pro-life.

COURIC: And so she believes that women should not have a legal right to abortion in this country? Does she believe that, for example, Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, should be overturned?

HECHT: Well, what she thinks about legal rights and legal cases and Roe vs. Wade are totally different from what she thinks about her pro-life views. I mean, Harriet's a lawyer and soon to be, I hope, a judge. And you separate those things.

COURIC: So you believe that she would not push to overturn Roe v. Wade if she were confirmed as a Supreme Court justice?

HECHT: I just don't know. I don't think, you know, there's no way to know that. A person who is serious about judging couldn't tell you what they're going to do in a case that they haven't heard it. They really can't. There's just no way to know.

Further, an October 7 Washington Post article reported that, as a candidate for the Dallas city council in the late 1980s, Miers met with a group of local women and left them with the impression that she "was completely opposed to abortion rights":

In another instance, candidate Miers agreed to sit down with a group of abortion rights activists. Operation Rescue was staging regular protests at area abortion clinics, and the group of about 10 women who met with Miers wanted to know whether she supported a 1985 city ordinance that protected patients from harassment. Four of the women in attendance said in interviews that Miers was immovable.

"She said, well, I'm sorry, it's murder, and that's that," said Joy Mankoff, founder of a local women's political action network. "There was no room for any discussion."

Although the women left the meeting convinced that Miers was completely opposed to abortion rights, one, liberal lawyer Louise B. Raggio, continued to support Miers and still does. Miers, for her part, has raised money to promote a lecture series on women's issues bearing Raggio's name. The first speaker was feminist Gloria Steinem.

The Time article also failed to note Miers's widely reported $150 contribution to the anti-abortion group Texans United for Life in 1989.

From the October 17 issue of Time magazine:

With an even thinner paper trail than John Roberts', Harriet Miers has left both supporters and opponents guessing. To gauge her thinking on key legal issues, they are combing through everything from old bar-association newsletters to interviews with her fellow churchgoers. Here's a look at the scant evidence so far:

ABORTION: While president of the Texas Bar Association, Miers joined a debate in the early 1990s within the American Bar Association over whether the A.B.A. should take a stand on abortion. The group had gone from neutral to pro-choice and back again. Miers, joined by other Southern state bar associations, pushed the A.B.A. to remain neutral, but she never stated her underlying position on abortion.

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