By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 14, 2009 ( – In the brief amount of time allotted to the abortion debate in this week's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor assured members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would allow Roe v. Wade to stand as precedent, but did not consider the absolute ban on partial-birth abortion to constitute precedent of equal weight.

Judge Sotomayor frequently referred to her commitment to the doctrine of stare decisis, or allowing earlier decisions to stand as guiding principles for future decisions, throughout the hearings – perhaps in response to critics who have said Sotomayor's decisions frequently reflect an activist judicial philosophy.

Sotomayor defended Roe v. Wade and the court's other pro-abortion decisions on the basis of a constitutional “right to privacy.”

When Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Tuesday queried whether Sotomayor also considered the partial-birth abortion ban “settled law,” she replied, “All precedent of the Supreme Court I consider settled law, subject to the deference the doctrine of stare decisis would counsel.”

But when pro-abortion Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) probed the partial-birth abortion question further, Sotomayor indicated that she did not consider the unequivocal nature of the ban part of the “precedent” set by the ruling.

“The health and welfare of a woman must be a compelling consideration,” Sotomayor admitted.

Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade who is now a leading pro-life activist, was arrested at Monday's hearing for shouting out a condemnation of Sotomayor's pro-abortion position.

“You're wrong Sotomayor, you're wrong about abortion,” McCorvey declared before being escorted from the room.

See related coverage:

“Roe” of Roe v. Wade Arrested for Protesting Hearing of Pro-Abortion Supreme Court Nominee