From Charlie Savage in the New York Times
In nearly 11 years as a federal appeals court judge, President Obama
’s choice for the Supreme Court
, Sonia Sotomayor
, has never directly ruled on whether the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. But when she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents.
Now, some abortion rights advocates are quietly expressing unease that Judge Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision.
In a letter, Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, urged supporters 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.”. . .
In his briefing to reporters on Tuesday, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs
, was asked whether Mr. Obama had asked Judge Sotomayor about abortion or privacy rights. Mr. Gibbs replied that Mr. Obama “did not ask that specifically.” . . .
[Judge Sotomayor] had several cases involving abortion-related disputes that turned on other legal issues. While those cases cannot be taken as a proxy for her views on the constitutionality of abortion, she often reached results favorable to abortion opponents.
In a 2002 case
, she wrote an opinion upholding 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,” she wrote, “and can do so with public funds.”
In a 2004 case
, she largely sided with some anti-abortion protesters who wanted to sue some police officers for allegedly violating their constitutional rights by using excessive force to break up demonstrations at an abortion clinic. Judge Sotomayor said the protesters deserved a day in court.
Judge Sotomayor has also ruled on several immigration
cases involving people fighting deportation orders to China on the grounds that its population-control policy of forcible abortions and birth control constituted persecution.
In a 2007 case
, she strongly criticized colleagues on the court 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.”
And in a 2008 case, she wrote an opinion vacating a deportation order for a woman who had worked in an abortion clinic in China. Although Judge Sotomayor’s decision turned on a technicality, her opinion described in detail the woman’s account of how she would be persecuted in China because she had once permitted the escape of a woman who was seven months pregnant and scheduled for a forced abortion. In China, to allow such an escape was a crime, the woman said. . . .
Mr. Waldman of BeliefNet.com also noted that Judge Sotomayor was raised Roman Catholic, although there are many judges who do not follow the church’s dogma — like opposing abortion and the death penalty — in their jurisprudence.
Moreover, he said, it is significant that as a group, Hispanics include a higher percentage of abortion opponents than many other parts of the Democratic Party’s coalition. Judge Sotomayor’s parents moved from Puerto Rico.
“At the very least, she grew up in a culture that didn’t hold the pro-life position in contempt,” Mr. Waldman said.