Among the hot-button issues that have dominated coverage of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in the past six weeks, abortion was conspicuously absent.
No longer so, as of Monday, after the work of four protesters - including the original “Jane Roe” of the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The protesters - “Ms. Roe” Norma McCorvey, 61, of Texas, Robert M. James, 48, of Virginia, Andrew R. Beacham, 27, of Indiana, and Francis Mahoney, 68, of Florida - spiced up an otherwise staid Capitol Hill opening of confirmation hearings for Judge Sotomayor. Each was charged with unlawful conduct, according to U.S. Capitol police.
Ms. McCorvey, who became a pro-life activist after her lawsuit legalized abortion in 1973, yelled out that Judge Sotomayor was “wrong about abortion” before being escorted from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing room.
Judge Sotomayor’s stance on the issue is not clear. She has ruled in favor of pro-life stances in at least two cases.
It was Ms. McCorvey who cut off the Senate’s newest member, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, during his opening statement, which was largely bereft of some of the sharper humor that drove his career as a comedian.
Instead, the laughs came from South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who cracked up the room with his candid assessments.
Shortly before he suggested that only a “complete meltdown” would stop Judge Sotomayor’s momentum, Mr. Graham questioned whether Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who had just finished condemning Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. as a judicial activist, had overreached.
“I’ve learned something already, the Schumer conservative standard. And we’ll - we’ll see how that works,” Mr. Graham said.
Other senators used the platform to bring up some pet causes. Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, now the committee’s second-most-junior member after switching to the Democratic Party, told Judge Sotomayor he would like to see the high court take on more cases and allow television cameras into the proceedings.
Either one would be a tall order.
The show was as much about the judicial community and Sotomayor family members packing the room as it was about media celebrities looking for seats to the big event - even if her approval looks like a lock.
It was also a day for the political groupies who squeezed their way into the back of the hearing room, and there were plenty.