Thompson Lobbied for Abortion Rights

The Associated Press
Friday, July 6, 2007; 7:29 PM

WASHINGTON -- Fred Thompson, who is weighing a Republican presidential bid as a social conservative, "has no recollection" of performing lobbying work in 1991 for a family planning group that was seeking to relax an abortion counseling rule, a spokesman said Friday.

The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site that Thompson was retained by National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association to lobby the administration of President George H.W. Bush to ease a regulation that prevented clinics that received federal money from offering any abortion counseling.

At the time, Thompson, a lawyer, worked as a lobbyist at Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, a Washington firm.

"He may have been consulted by one of the firm's partners who represented this group in 1991," Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo said Friday in a statement. "As any lawyer would know, such consultations take place within law firms everyday."

The newspaper cited minutes from a meeting of the association when Thompson's work was discussed as well as the recollections of five individuals.

Judith DeSarno, the association's former president, told The Times that she had specific memories of discussing Thompson's lobbying work with him in phone conversations and during meals at Washington restaurants.

Minutes of a Sept. 14, 1991, meeting of the association, cited by the newspaper, states: "Judy (DeSarno) reported that the Association had hired Fred Thompson, Esq., as counsel to aid us in discussions with the administration." According to The Times, DeSarno said Thompson told her he discussed the abortion restriction with John Sununu, then chief of staff to Bush.

Sununu told The Times that he didn't recall Thompson ever discussing the abortion restriction with him. "In fact, I know that never happened."

"It is not unusual for one lawyer on one side of an issue to be asked to give advice to colleagues for clients who engage in conduct or activities with which they personally disagree," Corallo said.

© 2007 The Associated Press