By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Like I said shortly after Sonia Sotomayor was nominated:
On Sotomayor, Some Abortion Rights Backers Are Uneasy
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON—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."
That from today's New York Times.
Given Sotomayor's inscrutability on the abortion question, her Senate confirmation hearings will actually matter. Lawmakers on both sides of the issue will try to suss out her views on Roe v. Wade and on the abortion issue generally.
The past five Supreme Court nominees—Samuel Alito, John G. Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Clarence Thomas—had all weighed in on Roe before their nominations. Not all their positions were crystal clear. Roberts, for instance, had written that "We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled," as a deputy solicitor general under George H. W. Bush but later said that " Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land."
Still, there was at least a record of such statements to provide a starting place for looking into Roberts's soul on the issue. And with him and other nominees, there were additional tea leaves to read. Roberts's wife, for example, was a board member of an organization called Feminists for Life.
But perhaps not since David Souter's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1990 have we had a nominee who is as much a black box on abortion. Though Sotomayor's nomination is all but assured, her hearings will actually matter for what they may reveal about her stance on Roe.