Sotomayor Stealth Stance on Abortion Criticized

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s stance on abortion has remained unclear through her confirmation hearings because of what may be called an “indirect” connection. There apparently are no judicial opinions she authored on the constitutionality of abortion.  

Yesterday, Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, countered this “indirect” connection by highlighting the hostility of Sotomayor’s PRLDEF platform towards restrictions on abortion in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dr. Yoest held that Sotomayor’s stance, as a member of the board of the PRLDEF, is a direct indication of her stance on abortion. Dr. Yoest stated “Part of being a board member is to have oversight, to have accountability, and to have responsibility [for the activities of your organization]” It is not by accident that Sotomayor was a member of the PLDF, it was a decision she made, and one she chose to be held accountable to.

Dr. Yoest, on further questioning stated “her record with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund was very extreme, and throughout this week she’s distanced herself from an association with an organization that she’s spent over a decade in service with.”

The reason Sotomayor is creating such a wide distance is because PRLDEF’s stance on abortion was radical.

In the remarks Dr. Yoest gave as a witness she outlined PRLDEF’s stance through the amicus curiae briefs they filed on certain Supreme Court cases. “The PRLDEF’s consistent position was that abortion was a fundamental right, with any regulation of abortion subject to strict scrutiny.” Dr. Yoest also said that through analysis of the amicus brief’s filed by PRLDEF one can see a substantial difference between Sotomayor’s interpretation of Roe v Wade and Justice David Souter’s interpretation of Roe v Wade.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey PRLDEF filed an amicus brief stating it “oppose[d] any efforts to… in any way restrict the rights recognized in Roe v. Wade,” consequently calling all “burdens” unconstitutional and comparing the right to choose with the fundamental right to free speech. Yoest said that Sotomayor will not recognize the fundamental right of the enumerated Second Amendment, yet  “consistently argued that abortion is a fundamental right … [that should be] elevated on the same plain as the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion”

The case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey is also the first indication of the difference in judgment between Sotomayor and Justice Souter. Souter ruled against the recommendations of PRLDEF and upheld the requirement of informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period.

In Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health and Casey, PRLDEF argued that “adolescent women’s right to choose [should] not [be] infringed by [parental] notification statutes,” and that minors should be “protected against parental involvement that might prevent or obstruct the exercise of their right to choose.” Sotomayor’s organization, in amicus briefs she permitted as a board member, was arguing that minors should not need to give any parental notification, in that it might result in a them not getting an abortion. Justice Souter though, on two different occasions has voted to uphold parental-involvement laws.

In the cases of Williams v. Zbaraz and Rust v. Sullivan, Dr. Yoest found PRLDEF “argued strongly for judicially compelling taxpayer funded abortion with both state and federal taxes”. Justice Souter ruled upholding state prohibitions on the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions.

Lastly in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services PRLDEF unsuccessfully argued that record keeping and reporting measures were designed to “harass” patients receiving an abortion. Again splitting with Sotomayor, Justice Souter ruled that these measures were designed for the “preservation of maternal health” and therefore were not an undue burden on abortions.

Dr. Yoest stated, “it’s a very decided myth that there’s a one-for-one substitution between these two judges, and so I think seeing Justice Sotomayor in the court is going to make a very definite difference” Abortion, despite the limited discussion, is an area where the court will be clearly divided and altered with the addition of Sotomayor.

Giving Sotomayor the responsibility she desired as a board member for PRLDEF it is clear that she does not have the same understanding of Roe v. Wade that Justice Souter did, because she is so extremely hostile towards restrictions on abortion.