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Kagan defended Clinton veto of late-term abortion ban

WASHINGTON - As an aide to former President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan helped defend her boss' veto of a measure that would have banned late-term abortions with few exceptions, according to files handed over to Congress Friday.

Kagan's memos and notes - part of a 46,500-page batch of records released by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library - reveal her role as the administration was playing defense against a Republican Congress that was trying to impose new limits on abortion rights.

On the late-term abortion bill, "I support an exception that takes effect only when a woman faces real, serious health consequences," Kagan handwrote on the draft of a letter Clinton was penning to a Catholic bishop dismayed by the veto.

That position angered both abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents.

But it was typical of a pragmatic streak in Kagan, President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, that's evident throughout the newly released records.

She wrote in 1998 that encouraging a new federal law banning assisted suicide would be "a fairly terrible idea." She expressed the opinion in a handwritten note during an internal administration debate over whether doctors in Oregon should be allowed to prescribe fatal drugs to help terminally ill patients commit suicide.

The Oregon statute stirred a move by Republicans in Congress to override the statute. The effort to enact a federal ban on assisted suicide stalled in Congress.

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