Sotomayor Voted to OK Asylum for Spouses of Women in China Forced Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 28, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Sotomayor Voted to OK Asylum for Spouses of Women in China Forced Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 28
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — As advocates on both sides of the abortion debate look for any indication of how appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor will decide cases on abortion if she is elevated to the Supreme Court, another abortion case on which she issued a decision is coming into play.

Sotomayor is known to have written a decision upholding the Mexico City Policy, the provision preventing taxpayer funding of groups that promote and perform abortions overseas and which President Barack Obama overturned.

She also ruled in a case concerning pro-life protesters and overturned a lower court decision that went against them.

Now, a third abortion case has surfaced from July 2007 in which Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion differing from the majority of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a political asylum case.

The court had to determine how frequently victims of the forced abortion policies of China can apply for asylum in the United States.

In its decision, the 2nd Circuit ruled that spouses and unmarried partners of women who face inhumane treatment under rigid Chinese population control measures do not automatically qualify for asylum.

The court said section 601(a) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 explicitly protects those who are forced to "abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program."

However, the appeal court alleged the law is unambiguous about extending protection beyond that — such as helping spouses or partners of the victims.

Still, it determined that, "A spouse who has not demonstrated that he himself is a victim of persecution cannot be entitled to asylum under this section of the statute."

Judge Sotomayor was not the only member of the appeals court to dissent, but her opinion made it appear she understood the problems of Chinese people, men or women, who face persecution in China’s brutal population control regime that requires couples to only have one child and uses forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations to punish offenders.

"The majority clings to the notion that the persecution suffered is physically visited upon only one spouse, but this simply ignores the question of whom exactly the government was seeking to persecute when it acted," Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote.

“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.

"The harm is clearly directed at the couple who dared to continue an unauthorized pregnancy in hopes of enlarging the family unit," she added.

Sotmayor also noted “the unique biological nature of pregnancy and special reverence every civilization has accorded to child-rearing and parenthood in marriage.”

Meanwhile, in a 2008 case, Sotomayor wrote an opinion vacating a deportation order for a woman who had worked in an abortion center in China.

In her opinion she described how the woman had allowed the escape of a woman seven months pregnant — which Chinese officials would have considered a crime for her to allow.

As with the other cases in which Sotomayor participated, the asylum opinion has nothing to do with abortion policy or statutes and it gives no indication that Sotomayor would support or oppose a bid to overturn Roe v. Wade or allow continued pro-life legislation at the state level.

But it makes it more clear why some pro-abortion groups are uneasy about her confirmation — with three decisions in three cases that sided with the pro-life position, if only tangentially.

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