In the News

The FundamentaList (No. 83)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Sarah Posner
The American Propect

4. She's a Catholic Latina, She Must Be Anti-Choice. Or Not.

Because Sotomayor was raised Catholic, speculation was rampant last week about how Catholic she really is and whether she follows church teaching on all matters, including abortion.

As Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told me, "The Pope thinks that if you're baptized a Catholic, you're a Catholic."

Guessing Sotomayor's views based on her Latina heritage is equally absurd, but that didn't stop BeliefNet editor Steven Waldman, who has urged the Democratic Party to stop being "extremist" on abortion, from telling The New York Times that as a group, Hispanics are more opposed to abortion than other segments of the Democratic Party's base. "At the very least," he added, "she grew up in a culture that didn't hold the pro-life position in contempt."

A leading Latina reproductive-rights advocate called Waldman's statement "incorrect" and an "oversimplification and generalization." Silvia Henriquez, executive director of the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told me last week, "We completely disagree, as a pro-choice organization, that Latinas are predominantly anti-choice," Henriquez added many Latinas, especially recent arrivals to the United States, are not familiar with the "pro-choice" lexicon. But nonetheless, the majority of Latinas "want women to have access to [a] full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, if they choose. That's being pro-choice." Both external polling and the Latina Institute's own focus group data, Henriquez said, shows most Latinas are, by this definition, pro-choice.

While the Latina Institute was enthusiastic about the nomination of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, Henriquez said, "We have not gone as far as saying she has our full endorsement. We're waiting for more information."