By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
As Congress prepares for the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, her mysterious stance on abortion has become a worry to pro-abortion forces and a hope for pro-lifers.
According to a report by The New York Times, in nearly 11 years as a federal appeals court judge, Sotomayor has never directly ruled on an abortion case; however her few opinions that touched on abortion disputes favored the pro-life position.
For instance, in 2002 she upheld the Bush administration policy of withholding aid from international groups that provide or promote abortion services overseas.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds,” she wrote.
Two years later she sided with anti-abortion protestors who wanted to sue policemen who used excessive force to break up a demonstration at an abortion clinic, saying the group deserved their day in court.
She has also issued several interesting rulings on several immigration cases involved people trying to flee China on the grounds that its population-control policy of forcible abortions and birth control constituted persecution.
In one case, she strongly criticized her colleagues on the bench who said that only women, and not their husbands, could seek asylum based on China’s abortion policy. “The termination of a wanted pregnancy under a coercive population control program can only be devastating to any couple, akin, no doubt, to the killing of a child,” she wrote, also taking note of “the unique biological nature of pregnancy and special reverence every civilization has accorded to child-rearing and parenthood in marriage.”
These cases have caused concern among special interest groups favoring abortion. In a letter to supporters, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, urged them 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.”
Their reservations grew on Tuesday of this week when White House spokesman Robert Gibbs claimed that during discussions with Sotomayor, the president did not specifically ask about her abortion views.
This is worrisome to abortion supporters because presidents have badly miscalculated the abortion views of Supreme Court nominees in the past, most notably in the case of the very Justice Sotomayor may replace – David Souter.
When Justice Souter was nominated by the first President Bush in 1990, Mr. Souter was known as a “stealth nominee” with no paper trail on abortion. But people on both sides of the abortion debate assumed he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, during his confirmation hearings, women picketed outside carrying signs that read “Stop Souter or Women Will Die.”
Two years later, Justice Souter shocked the political world by voting to uphold abortion rights.
“Everyone is just assuming that because Obama appointed her, she must be a die-hard pro-choice activist,” said Steven Waldman, editor in chief of BeliefNet.com, “but it’s really quite amazing how little we know about her views on abortion.”
However, he did point out that Sotomayor was raised Roman Catholic, even though it is unknown if she is a practicing Catholic who upholds Church teaching. She is also Hispanic, an ethnic group that tends to be pro-life.
“At the very least, she grew up in a culture that didn’t hold the pro-life position in contempt,” Mr. Waldman said.
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