By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2009 ( – While the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor commenced with less comment on abortion than in the previous three days, one question from Sen. Lyndsey Graham (R-NC) on the candidate's role in a strongly pro-abortion civil rights group prompted Sotomayor to refer to abortion as “a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.”

Graham pressed Sotomayor on her role as longtime board member at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), a group that signed on to at least five strongly pro-abortion amicus curiae briefs under Sotomayor.

One brief, signed by several interest groups, stated: “All Amici share an urgent concern that the Court clearly and unequivocally reaffirm Roe v. Wade. … They fear that any tampering with the right to abortion recognized in Roe will have a powerful, adverse impact on the liberty, equality and health of poor women and women of color.” 

The same brief also said Roe v. Wade recognized a “fundamental right” to abortion without which women “were stripped of the right of self-determination that is a given for men.”

Several of Sotomayor's former colleagues testified to the New York Times in May that “Ms. Sotomayor stood out, frequently meeting with the legal staff to review the status of cases” throughout her stay at PRLDEF, at times as board member, vice president, and chairman of the litigation committee.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Graham asked Sotomayor: “During your time on the board—and you had about every job a board member could have—is it a fair statement to say that all of the cases embraced by this group on abortion advocated the woman's right to choose and argued against restrictions by state and federal government on abortion rights?”

Sotomayor claimed that she did not review the briefs, adding: “I did know that the fund had a health care docket that included challenges to certain limitations on a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy under certain circumstances.”