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05.07.09 - Fifteen years. That's how long it's been since a pro-choice president has had the opportunity to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat. It's an opportunity that none of us can miss to make sure the president appoints a justice who supports affirmed constitutional rights, including a woman's right to choose an abortion.
In nominating the first Latina to the Supreme Court, President Obama has put forth a nominee who brings direct experience of the struggles faced by many Americans. Judge Sonia Sotomayor grew up in a single parent household with limited means and this should provide her with a strong understanding of the real life experiences of women. Such a perspective is sorely needed today as women’s reproductive rights remain under attack.
It is critical that any new Justice empathize with the true plight of women to not only recognize when those protections are being violated, but to take steps to safeguard them. The Center encourages the Senate Judiciary Committee to engage Judge Sotomayor and any future nominees to the Court on their commitment to the principles of Roe v. Wade. Anything less threatens not only a woman’s constitutional rights, but her life and health.
Since retiring Justice Souter joined the bench in 1990, there's been a substantial shift in the acceptance and protection of reproductive rights worldwide. A growing number of countries, courts, and human rights bodies around the world have recognized that reproductive rights are human rights. But the U.S. has slid backwards. Just two years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the first-ever federal abortion ban in a 5-4 decision, undermining 30 years of precedent and opening the door for further attacks on a woman's constitutional right to abortion.
Although Judge Sotomayor has not ruled on the constitutional right to abortion, in 2002, she authored an opinion in a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (at that time the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy). The lawsuit challenged the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule or "Mexico City Policy" which prohibited U.S.-funded family planning organizations based overseas from providing abortion services or engaging in speech intended to ease restrictions on abortion. Download the Center's recently released backgrounder on Judge Sotomayor’s 2002 opinion.
As the nomination process heats up, the Center will be closely monitoring developments and keeping you up-to-date on the latest news.
While we will not take a position on the nominee, we will continue to provide expert legal analysis, including background on current reproductive rights law and open cases threatening to undermine protections for reproductive rights, on our website and through regular email updates.
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