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Smear: Dawn Johnsen Believes Motherhood Is "Involuntary Servitude"

September 17, 2009 9:55 am ET

Dawn Johnsen is pro-choice, but she never disparaged motherhood. She merely said that taking away a woman's "abortion choice" was "suggestive of involuntary servitude."


Johnsen has "radical" abortion views, including the belief that motherhood is "involuntary servitude."


House Republican Conference 
National Review Online
Power Line Blog
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Rep. Steve King (R-IA)


PolitiFact: "Johnsen Compared 'Forced Pregnancy' - Not Motherhood - To Involuntary Servitude." In March 2009, the nonpartisan website examined the House GOP's claim that Johnsen "called motherhood 'involuntary servitude.'" The site wrote:

The allegation came from the Web site of the House Republican Conference:

"At least 45 House Republicans have co-signed a letter to President Barack Obama in opposition to his nomination of Dawn Johnson [sic] for the head of the Office of Legal Counsel," the site says in a blog post . The post continued: "Her brazen pro-abortion stances [include] a Supreme Court amicus brief where she called motherhood 'involuntary servitude.'"

The Republicans are referring to a 1989 brief in Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, a case that tested whether states could prohibit abortions in public health institutions. Johnsen was then legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League, one of 77 organizations to sign the brief.

Footnote 23, part of the brief that Johnsen said in a Senate hearing that she wrote, said the following: "While a woman might choose to bear children gladly and voluntarily, statutes that curtail her abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state's asserted interest. Indeed, the actual process of delivery demands work of the most intense and physical kind: labor of 12 or more grueling hours of contractions is not uncommon."

So Johnsen compared "forced pregnancy" - not motherhood - to involuntary servitude.

After we asked the Republican Conference about the claim, staffer Ericka Andersen acknowledged it was wrong. "You are correct that the post was written inaccurately," she told us in an e-mail. She corrected the post to say Johnsen "equated forced pregnancy with 'involuntary servitude.'"

Kudos to the conference for acknowledging the error. But we still find the original claim False.

[, 3/24/09; emphasis added]

Dawn Johnsen Has Two Children.  According to a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dawn Johnsen has "two dependent children." [, accessed 9/16/09]


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