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05.26.09 - New York, NY—Today, President Obama announced that he will nominate federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights issued this statement in response:
“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. Growing up in a single parent household with limited means should provide Judge Sotomayor 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.
“Over thirty-five years ago, Roe v. Wade recognized constitutional protection for a woman’s right to abortion. However, the promise of Roe has been increasingly in jeopardy as legal protection and everyday reality. Over the past three decades, the combined effect of a severe shortage of abortion providers, onerous state abortion restrictions, and lack of funding make abortion virtually unavailable for many women. And the last Supreme Court decision on abortion was 5 to 4 and diluted the constitutional protections for a woman’s right to abortion.
“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. We encourage 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.”
Judge Sotomayor has not ruled on the constitutional right to abortion. However, 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), challenging the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule or “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited overseas organizations that received U.S. funds from providing abortion services or engaging in speech intended to ease restrictions on abortion. The Center filed Center for Reproductive Law & Policy v. Bush on behalf of itself and its attorneys asserting that the Center’s work overseas with women’s rights organizations seeking law reform to address the deaths and harmful consequences of unsafe abortion would be hampered by the Global Gag Rule. Writing for a three judge panel, Judge Sotomayor relied on previous Second Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court decisions to reject the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment, Due Process and Equal Protection claims. The opinion focused on the application of legal precedent and did not express a view on or discuss the impact of the Global Gag Rule on abortion law reform efforts around the world.
On January 23, President Obama rescinded the Global Gag rule.
For the harmful effects of the Global Gag rule during the Bush Administration, see Breaking the Silence: The Global Gag Rule’s Impact on Unsafe Abortion and How the Global Gag Rule Impacts U.S. Foreign Policy and Harms Women’s Health.