Is Sotomayor a “Souter” on Roe v. Wade for the Abortion Movement? All Signs Point to No
By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 27, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A flurry of media coverage in recent days has reported on the unease among some pro-abortion constituencies that Obama’s Supreme Court nominee could turn out to be a “David Souter” for the pro-abortion movement. Justice Souter was famously nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1990 and highly feted by conservatives as an anti-Roe justice. However, the Supreme Court judge has disappointed conservatives by consistently casting a pro-abortion vote on the Supreme Court ever since.
Sotomayor, a federal judge serving on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, has been nominated by President Obama to replace Souter, who is retiring from the court this summer.
However, despite reported pro-abortion concerns a number of signs contradict the possibility that Sotomayor would ever rule against the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The latest comes in the form of Planned Parenthood’s wholehearted endorsement on Wednesday of Sotomayor as a judge who “respects precedent.”
Media stories in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Associated Press have moved from troubling questions about Sotomayor’s judicial activism and “reverse racism” to instead focus on the ironic possibility that Sotomayor could become a “Souter” for the abortion movement. In recent days the abortion movement has found rare common ground with the pro-life movement in demanding that Sotomayor reveal her position on abortion and Roe v. Wade to the US Senate.
The New York Times reported that while Sotomayor has never ruled on Roe, she “has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes.” In the course of her nearly 18 years of judicial experience, the Times reported, “she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents.”
Sotomayor decided in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush (2002) to uphold the Bush administration’s Mexico City policy, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from supporting organizations that provide or promote abortion overseas. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position,” she wrote, “and can do so with public funds.”
Also Sotomayor gave her opinion in Amnesty America v. Town of West Hartford (2004) that protestors who had been subjected to police brutality while demonstrating at an abortion facility should be able to bring those officers to court.
According to Steven Waldman, editor-in-chief of Beliefnet.com, Sotomayor was a member of the board of Childbirth Connect, the former Maternity Center Association, which does not include a right to an abortion among the “20 Rights of Childbearing Women.”
“Now, all of this might not mean anything. She may prove to be a strong advocate of Roe v. Wade. But it’s telling that the abortion interest groups took sides without knowing anything about her abortion views,” wrote Waldman in a blog for the Wall Street Journal.
He added, “It certainly would be ironic if the pro-life groups succeeded in blocking Sotomayor only to get a replacement nominee with an actual record of pro-choice opinions.”
Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, has given Sotomayor its full support, a significant endorsement given that the organization has the most to lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
"This historic nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court sends a strong signal that President Obama understands the importance of ensuring that our Supreme Court justices respect precedent while also protecting our civil liberties,” stated president Cecile Richards.
And there are other signs as well that Sotomayor would favor legalized abortion. George Pavia, senior partner in a law firm where Sotomayor worked prior to becoming a judge, told The Washington Post, "I can guarantee she'll be for abortion rights."
On Wednesday, the White House informed reporters that Obama did not ask Sotomayor’s position on abortion in their interview before he announced her nomination.
“The president doesn’t have a litmus test and that question was not one that he posed to her,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
However, Obama does not need to ask Sotomayor her abortion views, since she would have been vetted first by Obama’s staff before making the final list of candidates, says Dr. Edwin Vieira, an expert on constitutional law, who holds four degrees from Harvard University and has argued several cases before the Supreme Court.
“The question is where did her name come from?” Vieira told LifeSiteNews.com. “That list went through a careful selection process. It may not have been [Obama’s] personal selection process, but he certainly knew who was doing it and what the goals were in terms of the certain person they were going to select.”
“My guess would be that somebody knows, because they’re worried now about the fact that they have got a court that is 4-4-1, right?” said Vieira, referring to the current make-up of the high court, where Anthony Kennedy holds the swing vote on abortion. “And they’re going to put this woman out that would make it 5-3-1 or 5-4 on the abortion question?”
“She’s not a stealth candidate like David Souter was or was presented to be. I’m sure they know perfectly well what her position is on that. The last thing they are going to do is put that potential fifth vote on the court not knowing.”
See related coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
Obama Supreme Court Pick Lacks Abortion History, but Criticized for Judicial Activism, Racism
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Souter to Leave Open Seat in June