Sotomayor Blurs Lines in Abortion War [UPDATED]
Dan Gilgoff writes at the U.S. News & World Report blog God & Country:
The news media are reporting that conservative groups are girding for an all-out assault on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. And, to be sure, those groups are slowly releasing statements venting unalloyed outrage at President Obama's first high-court pick.(emphasis and editorial commentary added)
"She is a radical pick that divides America," [ED.: Really? She seems like a fairly safe and conventional (albeit clearly liberal) pick to my "untrained" eyes.] Americans United for Life said this morning. "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.'" [ED.: NEWS FLASH!!! The Supreme Court, like it or not, DOES set policy. They have ever since a little case back in the early 1800s called Marbury v. Madison.]
On the crucial issue of abortion, however, Sotomayor—a U.S. appeals court judge who previously served as a federal district judge—is largely a blank slate. "Sotomayor has never directly decided whether a law regulating abortion was constitutional," according to a recent Americans United for Life analysis.
Despite the purported outrage by conservative groups, Sotomayor's thin record on abortion is most likely a relief to those groups—and may actually wind up making abortion-rights groups anxious. In light of today's AUL statement, for instance, it may come as a surprise that Sotomayor receives the kindest treatment of nine potential Obama Supreme Court nominations the group examined. [ED.: I believe that's called hypocrisy. They know the Sotomayor pick is actually much better than we could've expected, yet they've gone on the offensive anyway.]
AUL notes that Sotomayor upheld a ban on federal funds going to abortion providers overseas. "The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the antiabortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds," Sotomayor wrote in the decision. She has also ruled in favor of antiabortion protesters who sued West Hartford, Conn., claiming that police there used excessive force against them at a demonstration.
For the moment, groups on the left are applauding Sotomayor, and groups on the right are attacking her. Everyone's following the script. [ED.: Politics as usual. Disgusting, but expected, I suppose.] But on abortion, the attitudes on both sides are probably much more complicated.
Granted, I am of the opinion that, absent very extreme circumstances, a President is entitled to the Supreme Court nominees of his choice ... especially with his first pick, so I recognize that I'm probably more tolerant of this pick than your average pro-lifer may be.
That said, I'm thoroughly disgusted by the reaction of pro-life groups and many other conservatives to this nomination. They've wasted no time before engaging in knee-jerk condemnation of Judge Sotomayor without, I'd wager, spending more than a minimal amount of time reviewing her record. As I noted in an update to my previous post, "I'm beginning to think that certain pro-life organizations already had their anti-nominee press releases ready to go this morning when Obama made his Supreme Court announcement, and that they just filled in the blank once they learned the name."
It's pure politics, and it's disgusting. I want no part in it, and I'd like all the pro-life groups to stop their barrage of emails to me telling me how the country as we know it is doomed if we don't derail the Sotomayor nomination (the head of one group, which will remain nameless, has emailed me no fewer than 5 times today asking me to promote this anti-Sotomayor tripe).
UPDATE (27 May)
One pro-life blogger for whom I have a great deal of respect has described Judge Sotomayor as a "radical liberal pro-death nominee".
On what basis does one make that claim? Certainly not based on Judge Sotomayor's actual judicial record. Who knows? That assessment may turn out to be 100% accurate. But, at this point, there is absolutely nothing - other than the fact that she has been nominated by President Obama - to indicate the accuracy of that description.
And even if it turns out to be accurate, like it or not, President Obama won the election. Elections have consequences. One consequence is that Presidents get to put Justices of their choice on the Supreme Court.
UPDATE #2 (27 May)
The CBSNews Political Hotsheet has more on this subject: "Sotomayor Nomination Renews Roe V. Wade Debate":
... Another reason why both pro-choice and pro-life groups will be paying close attention to Sotomayor's views is the example of retiring Justice David Souter, whose seat she was chosen to fill. Conservatives are still smarting from President George H.W. Bush's choice of Souter, who was little-known at the time and was selected in part because the elder Bush wanted to avoid a bruising Bork-era confirmation battle.Thanks for the link, by the way.
That example is probably why the Center for Reproductive Rights signaled some concern on Tuesday, saying that it wants the Senate Judiciary committee to verify Sotomayor's "commitment to the principles of Roe v. Wade." An e-mail message from the group asks supporters to lobby Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to require "full disclosure.
Meanwhile, liberal activists on the Daily Kos blog are already fretting that "Sotomayor is a stealth ANTI-CHOICE supreme court pick." Steve Waldman of Beliefnet.com suggests that the nominee is "an abortion centrist." And some Catholic pro-life bloggers are saying :"We've dodged a bullet. It could have been much worse..."
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
My Advice for Conservatives Re: Judge Sotomayor [UPDATED]
Conservatives, Liberals, and Supreme Court Picks