Rush Limbaugh called Sonia Sotomayor a “reverse racist.” But he may support her nomination to the Supreme Court anyway. Why? She’s Catholic and has an unclear record on THE ISSUE. That is why my guide to language surrounding Supreme Court nominations refers so heavily to that particular matter. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
By the way, it’s not insignificant that she’s Catholic. Consider:
|Justice||Religion||Voting Pattern on
Abortion Rights Cases
|John Roberts||Roman Catholic||Restrict Roe/Casey|
|John Paul Stevens||Protestant||Affirm Roe/Casey|
|Antonin Scalia||Roman Catholic||Overturn Roe/Casey|
|Anthony Kennedy||Roman Catholic||Varies
|David Souter||Protestant||Affirm Roe/Casey|
|Clarence Thomas||Roman Catholic||Overturn Roe/Casey|
|Ruth Bader Ginsburg||Jewish||Affirm Roe/Casey|
|Stephen Breyer||Jewish||Affirm Roe/Casey|
|Samuel Alito||Roman Catholic||Restrict on Roe/Casey|
What this adds up to is that all non-Catholic Justices would sustain existing abortion law; only Kennedy would keep Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which altered and moderately restricted Roe v. Wade, based on an “undue restriction” and “viability” standard) in place. Note that in the case of Roberts and Alito, I’m reading tea leaves a little bit from their Federalism opinions and votes in Gonzales v. Carhart.
So Kennedy right now is the deciding vote; he’s generally voted to affirm Casey, but in Carhart, he sustained the ban on partial-birth abortions, thus restricting abortion rights somewhat. Since Sotomayor is going to replace Souter, and the religion-based voting pattern holds with her, that turns a reliable “affirm” vote into a wobbly vote to at least further restrict abortion rights.