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Miers Pushed ABA on Abortion

President Bush's choice to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice and moderate abortion rights supporter Sandra Day O'Connor (search) was a leader in an unsuccessful fight to get the nation's largest lawyers' group to reconsider its pro-abortion rights stance.

As president of the Texas State Bar in 1993, Harriet Miers (search) urged the national American Bar Association (search) to put the abortion issue to a referendum of the group's full membership. She questioned at the time whether the ABA should "be trying to speak for the entire legal community" on an issue that she said "has brought on tremendous divisiveness" within the ABA.

Miers was among a group of lawyers from the Texas bar and elsewhere who had argued that the ABA should have a neutral stance on abortion.

The ABA's policy-making body overwhelmingly rejected the Texas lawyers' group's 1993 proposal to put the issue to a referendum by mail of the ABA's then-roster of about 360,000 members.

"Our current position [in favor of abortion rights] has no meaning unless it is endorsed in fact by the membership," Miers said at the time.

The ABA's position, adopted in 1992, endorses the basic outlines of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that women may choose to have an abortion without state interference prior to the point at which a fetus could live outside the womb, and after that point if the woman's life or health were threatened by the pregnancy.

Although Miers' personal view of abortion was not explicit in 1993, Leonard Leo, a White House adviser on Supreme Court nominations highlighted her efforts as part of the reason that "conservatives should be very happy with this selection."

"As a leader of the bar, Harriet Miers was a fearless and very strong proponent of conservative legal views. She led a campaign to have the American Bar Association end its practice of supporting abortion-on-demand and taxpayer-funded abortions," Leo said a memo on the Miers nomination.

Miers was very active in the ABA, and senators will probably question Miers about deep divisions within the organization about the abortion question and the ABA's role in taking policy positions.

The ABA briefly held the neutral position Miers and others supported — from 1990 to 1992.