July 23, 2009

Sotomayor, Abortion Funding, & the Thune Amendment

Anyone surprised by this week’s legislative developments – either by yesterday’s largely party-line defeat of Sen. Thune’s amendment granting concealed carry permit holders reciprocity in concealed carry states, or by Congressional Democrats’ and the President’s commitment to include mandated insurance coverage and taxpayer funding for abortion in health care reform – has not been following the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor very closely. The President’s nomination of and Democratic senators’ nearly unanimous embrace of Judge Sotomayor should have told Americans all they need to know about where Democrats stand on gun rights and taxpayer funding of abortion.

It was widely expected that the President would choose a very liberal jurist to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. But Obama went out of his way to nominate the federal judge with, arguably, the most negative Second Amendment record in the nation – so negative, in fact, that the NRA took the historic steps of opposing Sotomayor and then, just this morning, deciding to score her confirmation vote. Sen. Thune summarizes Sotomayor’s record of hostility to gun rights:
“Judge Sotomayor has consistently advanced a narrow view of the Second Amendment, providing little reasoning or explanation for her decisions, and twice has ruled that the Second Amendment is not a ‘fundamental right’ [and thus doesn’t apply] to state and local governments.”
Last week, during the Sotomayor hearings, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee went out of their way to defend her narrow view of the Second Amendment. Witness Sheldon Whitehouse’s and Dianne Feinstein’s derisive descriptions of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision upholding individuals’ right to keep and bear arms. During the hearings, Feinstein mischaracterized the decision as “a case overruling 70 years of precedent,” while Whitehouse sarcastically described Heller as “discovering a constitutional right to own guns that the Court had not previously noticed in 220 years.”

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Senate Democrats showed the same hostility yesterday to Sen. Thune’s gun rights amendment.

With regard to abortion, Judge Sotomayor’s nomination provided similar warning. During Sotomayor’s twelve years on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund (PRLDEF), the organization took radical legal positions on abortion, including equating restrictions on abortion with the Supreme Court’s notorious Dred Scott decision, which reinforced the “property” rights of slave owners. Most telling for this week’s health care debate, PRLDEF attacked restrictions on federal funding of abortion as “brutal” and “condemn[ing] thousands of poor women and their children to an inescapable cycle of poverty, disease and dependency.”

Democratic senators questioning Judge Sotomayor last week were not the least bit troubled by these radical views on abortion and Sotomayor’s connection to them. Instead, they tried to pretend that her role in PRLDEF had been minimal. But the New York Times found otherwise:
“The [PRLDEF] 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 during her time with the group.”
President Obama was similarly untroubled. Many commentators had predicted that Obama would moderate his stance on abortion as President. Instead, he chose a Supreme Court nominee who not only supports abortion rights, but went the extra mile by signing off on the argument that it is unconscionable to deny taxpayer funding for abortion. No wonder Obama and Congressional Democrats can’t understand why so many Americans – including many supporters of Roe v. Wade – are balking at having to foot the bill for abortions.