'Is Sotomayor Catholic?' was the headline I read first today. And I have to say that it's a fair question. If she's appointed she'll be the 6th Catholic sitting on a 9 person Court. The question being ignited now is how will her religion affect her stance on abortion and in particular Roe v. Wade.
Research into her decisions has not shown whether she'll support the precedent of Roe v. Wade or not. While I'm inclined to think that President Obama would have asked these questions ahead of nominating her given his track record on nominations I'm not convinced that he did get the right assurances. Although, if things follow precedent we need only worry about whether she paid her taxes or not.
USA Today questions Catholic support of Sotomayor saying:
"Next up: Expect her nomination to re-ignite the ongoing Catholic blogosphere wars over who is Catholic enough. If confirmed, Sotomayor, who grew up in Catholic schools in the Bronx, would be the sixth Catholic on the high court. It may be that her life experiences will align her with the social justice issues pushed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on race, poverty, immigration and economic issues. But for some outspoken Catholics, the 'life' issues -- abortion, family planning, so-called 'conscience clauses' for health workers, embryonic stem cell research and end-of-life choices -- are the litmus test."
The central question of the Sotomayor confirmation debate will not be framed by President Obama and his advisors but has already been framed by the media: What is Sotomayor's position on Roe v. Wade and are we going to have a SCOTUS 'wafer watch'? We have no idea from her record where Sotomayor falls on the abortion issue.
How serious is the debate going to be over Sotomayor's position on abortion? The New York Times reports:"In a letter, Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, urged supporters to press senators to demand that Judge Sotomayor reveal her views on privacy rights before any confirmation vote." Further, Robert Gibbs' response was worrisome yesterday when asked about Obama discussing abortion with Sotomayor. Gibbs said Obama "did not ask that specifically," meaning Obama may not know Sotomayor's opinion on abortion.
Ironically, "as president, Mr. Obama has sought to avoid being drawn into the culture wars of the last several decades and has encouraged each side in the abortion debate to be respectful of the other's opinions. " Unfortunately for President Obama nominating Sotomayor opened this, the most divisive issue in American politics, and, if he doesn't handle it carefully it'll severely taint his Presidency.
The thing I find most ironic about this debate is that if it is revealed that Sotomayor will follow in the traditional Catholic path (pro-choice without exception) then her confirmation will, undoubtedly, be reversed, with many Democrats against her and many Republicans for her.