Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, has been a target of the religious right largely because she previously was the legal director for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). They've called on Republicans to filibuster her nomination because, as Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement yesterday, she's a "radical pro-abortion nominee" with a "disturbing view of pregnancy, motherhood, and even the Constitution." Dannenfelser threatened, "This key personnel decision will determine whether pro-life senators are serious about acting to protect women and the unborn."

Now, via Greg Sargent, it looks like conserva-Dem Sen. Ben Nelson is poised to vote against Johnsen too.

Johnsen is a hero to opponents of the Bush administration torture policies, because of her early and strong denunciations of them. Torture is not an issue for the religious right -- the culture of life, you know, has its limits -- but there are a lot of other religious activists against torture who have been agitating for an investigatory commission, and, in some cases, criminal investigations and potentially prosecutions.

But some of those anti-torture activists are also anti-abortion. They have not publicly weighed in on the Johnsen nomination, but it certainly would be interesting to hear whether it's more important to them that Johnsen opposes torture -- an issue that now directly and urgently relates to the OLC director's duties -- or supports abortion rights, a position she incidentally shares with the president.

Politicians of both parties love to claim they listen to religious voices. But in this case, will the very loud voices on abortion drown out others on the torture issue?

--Sarah Posner

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