On '89 form, Miers sided with foes of abortion

In 1989, Miers stated anti-abortion views


WASHINGTON -- As a candidate for the Dallas City Council in 1989, Harriet E. Miers characterized herself as opposed to abortion and assured a local advocacy group that she "actively supported" legislation to permanently outlaw the procedure should the Supreme Court ever overturn its decision in Roe v. Wade.

Now a controversial nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court, Miers has repeatedly declined to reveal her position on the abortion question. Her reluctance has fired the consternation of both Republicans and Democrats who wonder what role she might play if given a lifelong seat on the nation's highest court.

But when she was running successfully for the Dallas council, Miers filled out a form submitted by Texas anti-abortion activists and sided with them on all 10 questions on the subject.

Her position of 16 years ago, disclosed in papers released yesterday, is the first indication of Miers' abortion views to come directly from her. It is likely to firm her support among conservatives who have been skeptical about her, and erode support among liberals who have seen her as relatively moderate. However, it is unclear whether she still holds the position stated in the questionnaire. "Nobody knows my views on Roe v. Wade," she said on Capitol Hill. "No one can speak for me on Roe v. Wade."

The abortion questionnaire was among hundreds of pages of material Miers submitted yesterday to the Senate Judiciary Committee hoping to clear up lingering doubts on Capitol Hill about President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court.

The new material, much of it in her own words, fills in key gaps in what was known about her personal and professional life. Some highlights:

While running for the council, Miers promised an arch-conservative group that she would not support a local ordinance to force individuals and business owners to accommodate "persons with AIDS and those perceived to have AIDS."

She divulged that she initially took herself out of the running to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "I was asked whether my name should be considered," she said. "I indicated at that time that I did not want to be considered." She later relented over dinner at the White House with the president and first lady Laura Bush.

She disclosed that her license to practice law in the District of Columbia was suspended this year when she failed to pay her bar dues. She said she immediately paid the dues and "corrected the situation."

She described her judicial philosophy, saying that "courts are to be arbiters of disputes, not policy makers," and that "the courts cannot be the solution to society's ills."

In contrast with new Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, Miers has never practiced before the court. She said she tried to bring two cases to the Supreme Court, but the justices would not hear them.

Miers' abortion views turned up in a questionnaire for Texans United for Life, an anti-abortion group in Dallas.

At the time, Roe v. Wade was 16 years old, had originated in the federal courts in Dallas and was recognized as the law of the land in granting women the unfettered right to abortions.

Miers told Texans United for Life that she would "actively support" ratification by the Texas Legislature of a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion except to prevent the death of the mother. She also said that if the Supreme Court ever returned to the states the right to restrict abortions, she would "actively support" legislation to reinstate "our" 1973 abortion law in Texas prohibiting all abortions except those necessary to safeguard the mother.

She was against public funds going for abortions, opposed city facilities being used to "promote, encourage or provide referrals for abortions," and was willing to participate in news conferences to promote the goals of the "pro-life movement." She also said she would participate in "pro-life rallies and special events."

Social issues

The document drew immediate fire from proponents of abortion rights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said, "This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard."

The abortion questionnaire, along with the similar one on the issue of AIDS, was highlighted by White House aides who called reporters' attention to them - an apparent effort to shore up the president's conservative base, which has been waffling over whether Miers is right for the Supreme Court

Indeed, soon after the questionnaires were released, many conservatives pronounced her fit to wear the judicial robes.

"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," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a constitutional law group in Washington.

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