SHE’S PRO-CHOICE, RIGHT?…. There was never any real doubt that President Obama would select pro-choice nominees for the Supreme Court. But Sonia Sotomayor’s record on the issue is thin, and it’s apparently prompting a few observers to hesitate, or at a minimum, seek clarification.
In nearly 11 years as a federal appeals court judge, President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, has never directly ruled on whether the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. But when she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents.
Now, some abortion rights advocates are quietly expressing unease that Judge Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision. In a letter, Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, urged supporters to press senators to demand that Judge Sotomayor reveal her views on privacy rights before any confirmation vote.
“Discussion about Roe v. Wade will — and must — be part of this nomination process,” Ms. Keenan wrote. “As you know, choice hangs in the balance on the Supreme Court as the last two major choice-related cases were decided by a 5-to-4 margin.”
Shortly after Sotomayor was introduced as the nominee, Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, quickly blasted her as “a radical pick” who “believes the role of the court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board.”
What was that based on? Apparently nothing. The right assumes she’s pro-choice; the left assumes she’s pro-choice. But no one seems to know whether she’s pro-choice or not.
Chances are, this will come up during the confirmation hearings. If Sotomayor sticks to the usual script, she’ll say she would approach every case with an open mind, without a preconceived position on any issues. Asked if she’s ever taken a firm stand on Roe, Sotomayor will probably claim a faulty memory. It is, after all, what most nominees do.
For what it’s worth, I’d love to hear Sotomayor follow Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s example. When she was a high court nominee, Ginsburg sidestepped questions about specific cases, but didn’t hesitate to state her positions on key issues, including abortion.
“[The right to an abortion] is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself,” Ginsburg told the Judiciary Committee. “And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
None other than Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who voted for Ginsburg’s nomination, praised the nominee for having been “very specific in talking about abortion.”
Any chance Sotomayor might offer a similar response this summer? Any chance Republicans will be equally generous with their praise?