Conservatives in the Senate should not treat Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in the same disgraceful manner that Senate liberals treated Clarence Thomas when he was nominated to the court in 1991, but they should subject her to a similar philosophical litmus test.
It is this simple: Does she believe the Constitution includes a "right" to kill an unborn child?
If she does, she is morally and philosophically unqualified to serve on the court, and conservatives should say so and vote against her for that reason.
When President George H.W. Bush nominated then-U.S. Appellate Court Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was unapologetic: He would subject Thomas to an explicit pro-abortion litmus test.
"I'm through reading tea leaves and voting in the dark," said Metzenbaum. "I will not support yet another Reagan-Bush Supreme Court nominee who remains silent on a woman's right to choose and then ascends to the court to weaken that right."
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, also a member of the Judiciary Committee, made a similar statement to Thomas himself during a Sept. 10, 1991, confirmation hearing.
"The Senate and the public have a right to know what a nominee thinks about critical issues before that nominee is confirmed to a lifetime seat on the court," said Leahy. "So let me make this very clear, Judge Thomas. In recent years we've danced around the question of where nominees stand on a woman's fundamental right to abortion. Now, this is one of the burning social issues of our time. It is the single issue about which this committee and the American people most urgently wish to know the nominee's views."
But it was Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat, who actually posed the question to Thomas. "Well, Judge," said Biden, "does that right to privacy in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protect the right of a woman to decide for herself in certain instances whether or not to terminate a pregnancy?"
Thomas dodged it.
"Senator," he said, "I think that the Supreme Court has made clear that the issue of marital privacy is protected, that the state cannot infringe on that without a compelling interest, and the Supreme Court, of course, in the case of Roe v. Wade has found an interest in the woman's right to -- as a fundamental interest -- a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. I do not think that at this time I could maintain my impartiality as a member of the judiciary and comment on that specific case."
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