HOW CONCERNED SHOULD WE BE ABOUT SOTOMAYOR'S PRO-CHOICE CREDENTIALS?

The inimitable Charlie Savage takes a look at concerns on the left that Sonia Sotomayor might not be relied on to protect a woman's legal right to choose an abortion if another challenge to Roe makes it to the Supreme Court. But it's not clear that we can draw any conclusions about her views from the few cases she has heard relating to abortion rights.

The decisions she was involved in seem to rely on other bodies of law rather than the privacy doctrine that is the legal foundation of a woman's right to choose. One decision that allowed the Bush administration to deny funding to pro-choice groups seems to turn more on the limits of policy-making rather than on the legality of abortion (and also seems to permit an administration to also spend funds on pro-choice groups if it so chooses). Another seems to turn more on the right of people to protest and the limits of police force. The final cases, on immigrants claiming political asylum to avoid forced abortions in China, shouldn't be construed as anti-choice at all; if anything, they reinforce the idea that a woman should be able to make her own decisions about reproduction without interference from the state.

Admittedly, the above analysis is merely proof that she doesn't have much of a record on the issues critical to reproductive rights -- uncertainty isn't a conclusion, either. While pro-choice groups are smart to be badgering senators to ask Sotomayor about her views on Roe v. Wade and related cases, I can't begin to imagine she'll say anything more direct than that she respects precedent -- which might be good enough.

-- Tim Fernholz

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