Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Is Sotomayor An Abortion Centrist?

One has to assume Obama wouldn’t have appointed Sonia Sotomayor without some indication that she’s pro-choice but — based on very, very little information — I wonder if she might not end up being an abortion centrist.

First, in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, she actually ruled against the pro-choice group on Constitutional grounds.
Second, in Amnesty America v. Town of West Hartford, she ruled in favor of the rights of anti-abortion protestors.
Neither of these cases dealt with the merits of abortion. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that in the two cases we know of that related partly to abortion, she took the position that pro-life groups would have wanted (albeit for reasons unrelated to Roe v. Wade). At a minimum, these cases would seem to indicate that, if she is pro-choice, she didn’t let those views affect her view of the relevant law.
Third, though we certainly can’t generalize, it is the case that Hispanics are the most pro-life members of the Democratic coalition. In Beliefnet’s “12 Tribes” study conducted in the summer of 2008, 58.9% wanted strong restrictions on abortion, while 41.1% took the pro-choice position. She may well be in the 41.1% but at a minimum she grew up in an environment where the pro-life position was well-respected.
I realize this is thin gruel, and new information might turn up any second showing her strong pro-choice position but I’m based on what we know now I’m not sure we can assume she’s hard-line pro-choicer.
UPDATE: Interestingly, Americans United for Life has issued their statement opposing Sotomayor — but it lists no specific pro-choice comments or rulings from the judge. Instead, they focus on her general judicial philosophy: “She 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.”
UPDATE #2: The White House briefing also points to her ruling in Lin v Gonzales in which she ruled in favor of a Chinese woman who sought asylum in part because of the force sterilization and abortion policies of the Chinese government.
UPDATE #3: She reportedly was on the baord of a group formerly called the Maternity Center Association, now called Childbirth Connect. They list “20 Rights of Childbearing Women.” None of them relate to the “right to choose.” In fact, I find no mention of abortion on their website.
UPDATE #4: Nancy Keenan, the head of NARAL, the leading pro-choice group, praised her accomplishments but had no sense of whether Sotomayor is pro-choice: “We look forward to learning more about Judge Sotomayor’s views on the right to privacy and the landmark Roe v. Wade decision as the Senate’s hearing process moves forward.”

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posted May 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

I don’t think they show she’s a centrist on abortion; instead, they show she respects the First Amendment and the law.
There’s no real reason to believe that she doesn’t believe in the “rights” language of Roe. Whether she would permit reasonable restrictions, who knows.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Here is the 2 min video with Sotomayor’s comments about policy. It is important that people judge her comments for themselves.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 1:06 pm

President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor
If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
See details of her biography:Judge Sonia Sotomayor-news-online

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posted May 26, 2009 at 10:20 pm

People who are pro choice are ignorant to back her. Naral thinks just because she is a minority woman she is goign to be on their side. She has proven otherwise in every case that was a pro chocie vs. pro life case. Roe vs. Wade will be screwed and I don’t want to have to say “I told you so”. So please dont be ignorant people! I don’t have the money to move to Europe yet.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I’m pro-life and prayerfully hopeful.

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posted May 27, 2009 at 1:13 am

Federal courts of appeal do make policy, which is a well-known fact in the legal arena. The federal courts have stripped the federal employee whistleblower laws to make the laws worthless for the employee. For example, the law states “all” disclosures provide whistleblower status for the employee, but the court created many exceptions. The court said that an acceptable disclosure could not be information gained as part of an employee’s normal job responsibilities. Congress has been trying to change the law to remove the many court rulings for at least two years, but have not yet passed anything. They tried to slip it through in the stimulus bill, but it was removed.
A reason given for making policy is vagueness in the law.

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Max Baxter

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:38 am

Based on what we know how this administration operates, I am almost certain that she was asked point blank where she stood and was told that pro-abortion stand is a condition for the nomination. Rahm would not leave anything to chance. It is always possible that she did say “you can rely on me” and once confirmed votes pro-life. This would have been the biggest political story of the last few decades.
Let’s pray and hope.

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Liz Rosales

posted May 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Steve, your such a sissy. Does your mother know your outside playing? This article says NOTHING! What a waste of space. You may as well have written an article about the Sun coming up and going down today. Is your middle name Milquetoast?
I particularly like this bit of gibberish, “I realize this is thin gruel, and new information might turn up any second showing her strong pro-choice position but I’m based on what we know now I’m not sure we can assume she’s hard-line pro-choicer.” What is that supposed to mean?
Go get another crayon and try again, but take a nap first, maybe your just sleepy.

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Steve Sanborn

posted May 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Steven….your statements about Hispanics voting 58% for ‘restrictions’ on abortion and 42% voting pro-choice are ignorant at best….people who want restrictions ARE pro-choice….legalized abortion is pre-meditated murder for profit….if you believe this….and it is factual…then you can not be in favor of any abortion for any reason ever…SSS

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posted May 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Let’s be real. When has a liberal EVER appointed a Supreme Court Justice who turned out to be conservative? I can think of NO ONE.
Conservatives are the ones who are forced to pick “stealth candidates” like Souter who end up being liberals. I don’t buy for a second that this woman will be anything but a good little liberal, supporting the unfettered right to kill unborn children.
It’s still mind-boggling to me that in this day and age so many of us can’t understand that it is never right to directly and intentionally kill an innocent human being. 3 weeks after conception an unborn child has a heartbeat. At 6 weeks, measurable brain waves. 50 million unique, never to be repeated human beings killed by “choice” since 1973 in this country. It’s barbaric.

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posted May 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I wonder what her position is on Marriage and the Family.

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posted May 27, 2009 at 11:25 pm

“He who is not with me is against me”
The mere fact that her position on life issues appears such an enigma makes suspicious. Also she was nominated by someone that manifests homicidal intent. How can I prove this? During the campaign, then candidate Obama said he wasn’t sure when human life began (remember the “above my pay grade” dodge?) Well, if you are not sure, then you err on the side of life. Otherwise, if you are willing to kill what might be human, then you display homicidal intent to kill what IS human.

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DC Garvin

posted May 28, 2009 at 9:23 am

Steve, thanks for your excellent article. As a life long Pro Life Conservative, I have been sickened by the overdone, hyperbolic rhetoric coming from Conservatives surrounding the nomination of Sonia Sotormayor. Its like they got into the habit of slicing and dicing everyone and just can’t stop.
But in this case, Conservatives really ought to quiet down and listen. Sotomayor might very well be much more reasonable than the alternatives. Certainly the facts have yet to turn up a pro abortion mindset out of her past.
And, having listened, seen, read, the context of what she said about a Latino woman, etc., and 2nd Court of Appeals “making policy,” I don’t think the pundits are being honest about her positions. She was simply telling it like it is, whether you agree or not. It amazes me how different things are when you see for yourself, rather than just take what the pundits and politicians say for truth. At least we should give her a chance.

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Your Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Obama has done nothing but toshow everyone that he is pro-abortion as an Illinois senator ,aUS senator, and now as President.
Further,all his appointments to date have been pro-abortion and largely Catholic.

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posted June 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

To me the abortion debate is not about the parents, or women, but it’s about children.
Have any of you who are concerned about killing unborn children thought about the what life is like for of a child whose parent is unable or unwilling to love and care for him or her? Do you assume that any life is worth living?
I’d also like to ask: Have you a) adopted an unwanted child or teenager from foster care? Perhaps that’s not feasible for you, in which case, b) have you called your senator to ask him or her to please raise your taxes so that unwanted children can be supported?
It seems that the idea of Life! Life no matter what! is what matters to those who are upset by legal abortion. I don’t understand how you would wish a life of nearly assured misery and despair onto a child who is born into a home whose parent could never love or care for him or her.
Unless you are someone who concerns yourself in some practical, meaningful way with caring for children with unprepared/ unfit/ unloving parents, I don’t think you have any moral standing in this debate.

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