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Is Sotomayor Stealth?

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Ronda Kaysen: Pro-choice groups are wringing their hands about Obama's pick for the Supreme Court. Sonia Sotomayor has never made any major rulings about Roe v. Wade, and in the few instances where she has ruled on issues relating to abortion, she's come out on the side of pro-life. Some are beginning to wonder if the woman who's poised to be the first Latina to sit on the nation's highest court is a stealth candidate.

Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor

"We simply don't know Judge Sotomayor's view on the bedrock constitutional case of Roe v. Wade," Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told CBS News.

In letters to supporters, pro-life groups sound anxious. "Discussion about Roe v. Wade will -- and must -- be part of this nomination process," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote in a letter to supporters. She then urged them to press their senators to question Sotomayor about her position on abortion. "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."

When asked if Obama vetted Sotomayor about her stance on abortion, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the president "did not ask that specifically."

In 2002, Sotomayor ruled to uphold the Bush Administration's global gag rule, stating, "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 2004, she sided with anti-abortion protesters who wanted to sue the police for using excessive force to break up their demonstrations outside an abortion clinic. 

In several rulings she's made about granting amnesty to women from China who are escaping forced abortions and forced sterilizations, she has ruled in favor of the refugees. Pro-choice groups oppose forced abortions and forced sterilizations. However, some of the language Sotomayor has used in her rulings has made pro-choice activists uneasy. In a case in which other judges on the bench argued that men from China couldn't get amnesty, she wrote:

"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."

Some pro-life activists are cautiously optimistic that Sotomayor, a Catholic, might support their views.

"Everyone is just assuming that because Obama appointed her, she must be a die-hard pro-choice activist," Steven Waldman, editor in chief of, a religious website, told the New York Times, "but it's really quite amazing how little we know about her views on abortion."

Yesterday, the White House moved to quell fears from the left that Sotomayor wasn't a sure vote to uphold Roe, The Hill reported. Obama, who ran on a pro-choice platform, is "very comfortable with the fact that she shares a similar interpretation to the Constitution" to the President, Gibbs said.

There have been stealth justices before. Conservatives and liberals alike assumed that David Souter, the justice Sotomayor is poised to replace, would be a reliable conservative. But he quickly turned out to be a darling of the left. In her 17 years as a judge, Sotomayor has managed to avoid laying out her ideology about issues ranging from abortion to labor rights to discrimination.

Tom Goldstein, who writes the Supreme Court blog Scotusblog, told CBS news that Sotomayor's views are largely a mystery. "There's a real air of mystery about some of the big hot button social issues that we all care about," he said.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mrs Embers May 30, 2009, 7:03 AM

You know, a whole lot of people (women included) won’t be upset if she turns out to be pro-life.

Shocked May 30, 2009, 7:59 AM

“In 2004, she sided with anti-abortion protesters who wanted to sue the police for using excessive force to break up their demonstrations outside an abortion clinic. “

Oh, my…how could she *do* such a thing????????

Cathy K May 30, 2009, 1:12 PM

You know, a whole lot of people (women included) won’t be upset if she turns out to be pro-choice.

Brooke May 30, 2009, 2:01 PM

You know, I don’t understand why so many people view this as the most important factor.

Shanisha May 31, 2009, 8:06 AM

I cannot understand why anyone has a question about Sotomayor’s position on the abortion issue. I see this question popping up all over the Web on both sides and I can only imagine Obama and his cronies giggling their silly little heads off! Why is anyone wondering about this???? This is just another example of the kind of thinking and behavior that got Obama elected and people are doing it all over again!! As thick as their skulls are, their brains must be the size of peas!! Almost everyone Obama has appointed, even in lower-level positions, has been pro-abortion. So, why would anyone ever imagine that Sotomayor, probably the most important and influential appointment Obama will make in his presidency, is NOT pro-abortion?! I can imagine the doubters getting up every morning and anxiously waiting at their windows to see if the sun will rise! What a joy it must be for them when it does!! This is EXACTLY the kind of poor-reasoning-based-on-wishful-thinking-as-justification-for-circumventing-common-sense that keeps getting people into messes — I really do wish they would stop.

mercaties June 5, 2009, 3:56 AM

I’am completly dumbfounded by all the MOTHER’S who think it’s okay to kill a fetus that has a heartbeat. I’am a woman and of course I’m for women’s rights but since when should murder be a right, if you don’t want a baby don’t get pregnant. As far as rape cases or insest cases that’s why drugs that prevent pregnancy were invented. As far as Sotomyor is concerned everyone has an opinion, people are going to disagree no matter what side she is on.

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