Chuck Hagel as Defense Secy: Abortion Views Not a Barrier

Blogging at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer weighs in on President Obama's possible selection of the GOP's Chuck Hagel as a replacement for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in spite of his repeated votes to deny servicewomen access to abortions.

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President Obama and former Sen. Chuck Hagel (Salah Malkawl/Getty Images)

In a blog entry at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer weighs in on President Obama's possible selection of the GOP's Chuck Hagel as a replacement for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The former Nebraska senator has faced criticism from various quarters but likely would not face opposition from abortion groups, even though he has repeatedly voted to deny servicewomen access to abortions.

Former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), reportedly President Barack Obama's top choice to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary, has come under fire from the right for mildly criticizing Israel and from the left for offensive remarks about a gay Clinton appointee in 1995. (He's since apologized for his comments about the Clinton nominee.) But despite the fact that Hagel repeatedly voted to limit access to abortion for American servicewomen stationed abroad -- votes in direct opposition to the Obama administration's current stance-- women's rights groups aren't piling on.

"His overall record on the question of legal abortion is bad," says Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights group. But NARAL believes "President Obama's views on this issue would prevail if Hagel were appointed."

During his twelve years in Congress, Hagel was an ardent opponent of abortion rights, racking up an average 94 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. When first running for Senate, in 1995, he took a hard line against abortion rights, saying he didn't believe exceptions for rape or incest were necessary because, he said, so few pregnancies were involved. "As I looked at those numbers," Hagel told the Omaha World Herald, "if I want to prevent abortions, I don't think those two exceptions are relevant."

Read Adam Serwer's entire piece at Mother Jones.

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