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Weekly Pulse: Sotomayor an enigma on abortion

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By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

Yesterday, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina and the third woman ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is currently a federal judge on New York's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Born to Puerto Rican immigrant parents and raised by her mother in the housing projects of the South Bronx, Sotomayor went on to attend college at Princeton and law school at Yale. George H.W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. District Court in 1991 and Bill Clinton "promoted" her to the 2nd Circuit in 1998.

Political Scientist Scott Lemieux writes for TAPPED that, in light of her distinguished resume and inspiring biography, Sotomayor's confirmation is all but assured:

"[...] Obama cited three criteria in choosing Sotomayor: 1) her intellectual capacity (as demonstrated in her sterling academic record, her success as an assistant district attorney, and her distinguished service as a federal judge); 2) her approach to judging based on her opinions, which represent a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail; and 3) her compelling personal story, rising from poverty in the Bronx to Princeton to being an editor at the Yale Law Journal. This combination of factors will, I think, make her confirmation inevitable."

In the Nation, John Nichols says that the Sotomayor pick "reflects America". Within hours of the announcement of Souter's resignation, conventional wisdom had pegged Sotomayor as the odds-on favorite for the nomination. There were a few bumps along the way, though. Brian Beutler of TPM reports on the anatomy of a preemptive whispering campaign starring anonymous law clerks quoted in the New Republic questioning Sotomayor's intelligence and temperament.

While Sotomayor has a reputation for being a liberal jurist, her record contains few hints about her views on abortion. Attorney and feminist writer Jill Filipovic reviews Sotomayor's record on abortion for RH Reality Check. Sotomayor has only ruled on one major abortion-related case in her time as a judge, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, and as Filipovic says, Sotomayor's conclusion "isn't going to warm the hearts of reproductive rights activists."

But, as Filipovic explains, abortion wasn't the issue at stake in this case. Rather, the question was whether the Bush administration's Global Gag Rule was violating the constitutional rights of American NGOs. The gag rule threatened to revoke their federal funding for working with foreign NGOs that discussed abortion. For various technical reasons, Sotomayor concluded that the rule was constitutional after all. Filipovic continues:

"If anything, CRLP v. Bush highlights precisely why Sotomayor should, in a sane world, be an easy confirmation: She sticks to the rule of law, respects precedent and writes thoughtful and reasoned opinions. She was nominated to the federal district court by George H.W. Bush. Her decisions are left-leaning insofar as she generally seeks to protect Constitutional rights by supporting religious freedom and free speech, and she often sides with the plaintiffs in discrimination cases - hardly "activist" material."

Emily Douglas, also of RH Reality Check, notes that the conservatives aren't buying the "common ground" abortion rhetoric the White House has been pushing. Even if the White House has the votes to confirm Sotomayor, and everyone knows it, a Supreme Court nomination battle is a golden fundraising opportunity for the right wing, so expect a lot of sound and fury from that quarter. It makes them feel relevant.

In other reproductive health news, Dana Goldstein discusses a recent literature review by the Guttmacher Institute arguing that coitus interruptus is an under-studied and possibly underappreciated form of birth control. The paper got a lot of discussion because the conventional wisdom is that withdrawal is ineffective. The study cites a figure that couples who use withdrawal perfectly have a 4% yearly chance of getting pregnant vs. 2% for couples who use condoms perfectly. However, the study doesn't compare what percentage of couples who try to use withdrawal actually achieve perfect use compared to couples attempting to use condoms or other methods. Sex educators' main concern, apart from the fact that withdrawal doesn't protect against STDs, is that an unusually large number of people attempting it fail to achieve the desired results. If you only count the efficacy for successes, you get a distorted picture. In a follow-up post, Goldstein asks whether doctors might be biased against non-hormonal birth control.

It's not just big businesses like GM that shoulder the burden of expensive private health insurance. In a special issue of the Washington Monthly, Jonathan Gruber argues that a universal healthcare program could increase American competitiveness by giving people the security they need to start their own businesses without having to worry about whether they can afford health insurance for themselves or their workers.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care.

Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy or follow us on Twitter.

And for the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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