Sotomayor's Abortion Related Ruling

Sotomayor's Abortion Related Ruling


Back in 2002, Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion AGAINST a pro-choice group. It involved the controversial Mexico City policy. Read a summary of the case below from  the the SCOTUS Blog.

The case was called, "Center for Reproductive Law and Policy vs. Bush.

Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights, she wrote the opinion in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, 304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002), a challenge to the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions.  An abortion rights group (along with its attorneys) brought claimed that the policy violated its First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights.  Relying on the Second Circuit’s earlier decision in Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Agency for International Development, which dealt with a virtually identical claim, Sotomayor’s opinion rejected the group’s First Amendment claim on the merits.  Turning to the plaintiffs’ due process claim, Sotomayor held that they lacked standing because they alleged only a harm to foreign organizations, rather than themselves.  Sotomayor held that the plaintiffs did have standing with regard to their equal protection claim, but she ultimately held that the claim failed under rational basis review because the government “is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position” with public funds.

Her actual ruling is here.

Read more on this from

Sotomayor, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has not directly issued any rulings on abortion but she has been involved in abortion cases..

"Despite 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has never directly decided whether a law regulating abortion was constitutional," the pro-life group Americans United for Life noted in a recent analysis of potential Supreme Court candidates.

Sotomayor participated in a decision concerning the Mexico City Policy, which President Obama recently overturned and which prohibits sending taxpayer dollars to groups that promote and perform abortions in other nations.

Writing for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor upheld the Mexico City Policy, but AUL says the significance of the decision "may be minimal because the issue was largely controlled by the Second Circuit’s earlier opinion in a similar challenge to the policy."

AUL notes that Judge Sotomayor also upheld the pro-life policy by rejecting claims from a pro-abortion legal group that it violated the Equal Protection Clause.

"Rejecting this new argument, Justice Sotomayor wrote that because the challenge involved neither a suspect class nor a fundamental right," AUL notes. "She then acknowledged the ability of the government to adopt anti-abortion policies, noting, 'there can be no question that the classification survives rational basis review. The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds.'"

At the same time, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion overturning, in part, a district court’s grant of summary judgment against a group of pro-life protestors.

Though not concerning abortion policy directly, the case is viewed as a stand against free speech for pro-life advocates.

Initially, it looks like the abortion issue may not derail Sotomayor. That's good news for President Obama. The last thing he needs is a fight over abortion. Pro-choice groups may feel a bit queasy on this because she actually hasn't ruled on the constitutionality of abortion but you would think they have to feel that her liberal leanings will point her in the "right direction." Taking the abortion issue off the table (for the most part) is an astute political move.

One quick note: since she doesn't have a huge track record on abortion, expect her to be pushed even further on this during her confirmation hearing. The language will be cloaked in words like "right to privacy."

Blog Keywords: 

Blog Posts: 

The Brody File