Sotomayor Evades Questions About Board Membership on Pro-Abortion Group

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 14, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Sotomayor Evades Questions About Board Membership on Pro-Abortion Group

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 14
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor evaded questions Tuesday afternoon from a senator who wanted to know more about the pro-abortion mission of a Hispanic group she served on the board of directors for during the 1980s.

Her comments followed remarks she gave earlier in the day saying the Roe v. Wade abortion case allowing virtually unlimited abortions any time during pregnancy is "settled law."

Sotomayor was a member of the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1980 to 1992.

The New York Times notes that Sotomayor "was an involved and ardent supporter of their various legal efforts."

The group has come under fire for filing numerous amicus briefs with the Supreme Court each advocating an unlimited right to abortion throughout pregnancy and paid for at taxpayer expense.

In an attempt to play down her involvement with the group, Cesar Perales, PRLDEF’s president and general counsel, told AP earlier this month that Sotomayor set policy for the group but wasn’t involved in those legal briefs.

"She was on the board of directors, she was not a member of the legal staff, so she was not directly involved in the legal arguments that we presented," Perales said. "Her role was to help us raise funds, set policy, hire the person who would run the organization."

During questioning from pro-life Sen. Lyndsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, Sotomayor was evasive.

Graham asked pro-abortion President Barack Obama’s high court nominee about Puerto Rican LDF’s briefs calling for right to tax-funded abortions.

Trying to deflect the questions, Sotomayor told Graham she only raised money for the group during her tenure on its board of directors. Then she admitted she reviewed legal briefs to see if they matched the "mission" of the organization, adding that the mission of the group was very broad and generalized.

Sotomayor offered to explain the function of board members of the organization as opposed to members of the day-to-day staff.

Graham followed up with a question inquiring about the "mission" of the pro-abortion group and Sotomayor evaded the question. The senator then asked her if she would have been bothered personally if advocating for abortions had been included in the organization’s mission statement.

Sotomayor merely responded that they organization lobbied for public health issues.

“Do you think Roe vs. Wade changed society?” Graham ultimately asked her.

“Roe vs. Wade looked at the Constitution and decided that the Constitution is applied to a claimant’s right, applied …," Sotomayor said before Graham interupted her — displeased with her response.

“Is there anything in the Constitution that says a state legislature or the Congress cannot regulate abortion or the definition of life in the first trimester?” Graham added. “Is there anything written in the document about abortion?”

Sotomayor responded, “The word abortion is not used in the Constitution, but the Constitution does have a broad provision concerning a liberty provision under the due process."

At that point, Graham interrupted her again: “And that gets us to the speeches. That broad provision of the Constitution has taken us from no written prohibition protecting the unborn … And a lot of us are concerned that unelected judges are quick to change society in a way that is disturbing. Can you understand how people feel that way?"

“Certainly,” replied Sotomayor.

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life who will speak to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee later this week, has seen enough to say Sotomayor is pro-abortion and worse than Justice David Souter, whom she would replace.

Yoest points out that, during Sotomayor’s time on the PRLDEF’s board, its efforts "included no less than six briefs in five abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court — pushing aggressively for an interpretation of abortion rights that would eliminate most or all state and federal abortion regulations while requiring state and federal funding of abortion."

In two of the legal briefs, "the PRLDEF’s briefs took positions more extreme than those of Justice Souter, who joined with the court’s majority to uphold restrictions the fund wanted struck down," Yoest added.

Ultimately, "Justice Sotomayor has never disavowed any of the PRLDEF’s briefs, which are packed with the kind of extreme rhetoric more typical of left-wing blogs than of serious legal documents."

Sotomayor presumably knew about the briefs and did not apparently lodge any objections to it or to her organization promoting abortion.

Clarke Forsythe, the senior legal counsel for the pro-life group, says the legal briefs are a smoking gun of sorts.

“Now we know why President Obama said that Judge Sotomayor shared his view of ‘the Constitution’ and why the White House reassured pro-abortion organizations," he said. "If Judge Sotomayor holds the position that she signed onto via the PRDF’s brief, then, if an abortion-related case comes up on the docket, it will lead to her reading the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) into the Constitution by judicial interpretation."

The brief also argued that any laws requiring abortions to be performed in hospitals would preclude abortions for poor women and women of color.

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