I’ve been so swamped with marking, I haven’t even had time to mention the big news: Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated to the US Supreme Court! Of course, it didn’t take long for veiled and not-so-veiled racist commentaries to start. (I think I’m especially impressed by the claim that she is a Latina single mother, despite having no children at all.) Today, however, something more interesting came out: some uncertainty about her views on reproductive rights. She hasn’t explicitly ruled on the Roe V Wade reasoning, and the worries stem from these cases:
1. In a 2002 case, she wrote an opinion upholding the Bush administration policy of withholding aid from international groups that provide or promote abortion services overseas.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position,” she wrote, “and can do so with public funds.”
2. In a 2004 case, she largely sided with some anti-abortion protesters who wanted to sue some police officers for allegedly violating their constitutional rights by using excessive force to break up demonstrations at an abortion clinic. Judge Sotomayor said the protesters deserved a day in court.
3.In a 2007 case, she strongly criticized colleagues on the court who said that only women, and not their husbands, could seek asylum based on China’s abortion policy. “The termination of a wanted pregnancy under a coercive population control program can only be devastating to any couple, akin, no doubt, to the killing of a child,” she wrote, also taking note of “the unique biological nature of pregnancy and special reverence every civilization has accorded to child-rearing and parenthood in marriage.”
And in a 2008 case, she wrote an opinion vacating a deportation order for a woman who had worked in an abortion clinic in China. Although Judge Sotomayor’s decision turned on a technicality, her opinion described in detail the woman’s account of how she would be persecuted in China because she had once permitted the escape of a woman who was seven months pregnant and scheduled for a forced abortion. In China, to allow such an escape was a crime, the woman said.
(2) seems like the right ruling if you care about police using excessive force, which you should. (3) are clearly the right rulings if you care about reproductive rights (even the forced childbearing advocates interviewed for the article realise that this is what pro-choice person would say). Which leaves only (1) to worry about– and it may well be that the higher court ruling made this the only judgment possible. Do any of you know more about (1) which would make this more worrying?