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Sotomayor Deflects Abortion Questions

Senators repeatedly pushed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to define her views on abortion Wednesday, but she resisted. Kwame Holman recaps the third day of confirmation hearings.

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    U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor fended off efforts today to draw out her views on abortion rights. The nominee faced a second day of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.


    The renewed focus on abortion followed Sotomayor's testimony on Tuesday when she agreed the core finding of Roe v. Wade was "settled law." That 1973 decision legalized abortion in the U.S.

    Today, Republican Tom Coburn, an obstetrician from Oklahoma, approached the issue again.

    SEN. TOM COBURN (R), Oklahoma: Let's say I'm 38 weeks pregnant and we discover a small spina bifida sack on the lower sacrum, the lower part of the back on my baby, and I feel like I just can't handle a child with that. Would it be legal in this country to terminate that child's life?

  • JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, Supreme Court Justice Nominee:

    I can't answer that question in the abstract, because I would have to look at what the state of the state's law was on that question and what the state said with respect to that issue.

    The question is, is the state regulation regulating what a woman does an undue burden? And so I can't answer your hypothetical, because I can't look at it as an abstract without knowing what state laws exist on this issue or not. And even if I knew that, I probably couldn't opine, because I'm sure that situation might well arise before the court.


    Another abortion opponent, Texas Republican John Cornyn, pointed to a Washington Post article from May. It reported White House officials were reassuring liberal groups about Sotomayor's record on abortion rights.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: It goes on to say, "White House press secretary said the president did not ask Sotomayor specifically about abortion rights during their interview." Is that correct?


    Yes, it's absolutely correct. I was asked no question by anyone, including the president, about my views on any specific legal issue.


    Do you know then on what basis, if that's the case — and I accept your statement — on what basis that White House officials would subsequently send a message that abortion rights groups do not need to worry about how you might rule in a challenge to Roe v. Wade?


    No, sir, because you just have to look at my record to know that, in the cases that I addressed on all issues, I follow the law.