Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Sonia Sotomayor Pro-Life?

Continuing yesterday’s abortion theme, I wanted to consider what Sonia Sotomayor really thinks about abortion. Both Democrats and Republicans were anxious to hear her opinions on the subject.

Her record tells us little about how she would rule on Roe vs. Wade. Sotomayor dismissed a lawsuit regarding the Mexico City policy, which forbids taxpayer dollars from being used on abortions overseas. Doctors who accepted US funds weren’t allowed to tell women they could have an abortion. Sotomayor also issued a ruling in favor of pro-life protesters.

Despite the fact that she was nominated by a Democratic President, there are some who think she could be pro-life. There has been a curious lack of opposition from pro-life groups. A prominent pro-life Catholic, Bill Donahue even said he supported her nomination. Donahue thinks that “from what we know, it looks like she'll be at least a wash with Souter, and maybe we'll even see improvement.”

Sotomayor attended Catholic schools as a child, and there were clearly many years where she could have absorbed church teachings against abortion. There is some confusion about whether she’s currently a practicing Catholic. She’s also divorced and has no children. On the other hand, conservative Catholics have not indicated that they think she’s an unfaithful Catholic.

Perhaps pro-lifers are concerned about going after the first ever Latina nominee too hard. They could alienate socially conservative Hispanic voters if they’re perceived as mean or bullying. So they may reason, as Donahue does, that Sotomayor will just be a wash at worse, and there’s no use angering Hispanics by tearing her down. In other words, politics could be at play, too.

Even if she is religious, that doesn’t guarantee she’ll be pro-life. Plenty of religious Americans support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. A Marist poll last year found that 48% of Catholics are pro-choice. Among practicing Catholics, that drops to 29%. But that is still a significant percentage.

As a younger woman, Sotomayor was on the board of the Puerto-Rican Legal Defense Fund. The group likened refusing a woman access to abortion to slavery. But I’m not sure that Sotomayor necessarily agrees with every single position the group took. She could have joined mostly because she shared the group’s overall goal of fighting discrimination against Hispanics.

What do you think? Take my poll.

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