Bench Memos

Sotomayor and Abortion

Some conservatives and pro-lifers evidently continue to harbor the hope that Judge Sotomayor will not be hostile on the issue of abortion.  This Washington Times editorial ought to force them to examine carefully whether they have any plausible basis for their hope.  Here’s some information from the editorial that was new to me:

Consider that from 1980 until October 1992, Judge Sotomayor served on the board — at times as vice president and at times as chairman of the litigation committee — of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. The New York Times in 1992 described her as “a top policy maker on the board.” During that time period, the fund filed briefs in not one, not two, but at least six prominent court cases in strong support of “abortion rights.”

The cases began with an abortion-funding case, Williams v. Zbaraz, just as she joined the board, and they continued through the landmark cases of Rust v. Sullivan, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Especially in the Webster case, in which all nine justices joined at least part of the decision saying that states need not provide public funds for abortions, the fund supported positions far more pro-abortion than the court itself did. Also, in the case Ohio v. Akron Center, the fund wrote that it “opposes any efforts to overturn or in any way restrict the rights recognized in Roe v. Wade.”

No statement could be more categorical. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund thus presumably would oppose any restriction, including those on late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, abortions for minors and the like.

It is possible to serve on the board of a group while not being responsible for a single random legal brief. However, Judge Sotomayor’s group filed such suits at least six times – and as the New York Times reported on May 28 (while discussing a different case), “The board monitored all litigation undertaken by the fund’s lawyers, and a number of those lawyers said Ms. Sotomayor was an involved and ardent supporter of their various legal efforts.”

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