Could Abortion Doctor's Murder Become an Issue in Sotomayor's Confirmation Process?

As Judge Sonia Sotomayor prepares to meet with senators to discuss her Supreme Court nomination, the murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller has further stirred up the heated debate over abortion in her confirmation process.

Abortion rights groups are seizing the opportunity to push for clarity on Sotomayor's views on the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, while anti-abortion groups -- most of which condemned the killing -- say Sunday's event should not affect the Senate's decision-making process.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the Supreme Court justice debate," David Osteen, executive director of the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, told ABC News.

But some anti-abortion groups expressed concern that Tiller's murder might adversely affect their agenda.

"If there is an aggressive effort to try and demonize the pro-life community and our message, then members of the judiciary committee and other pro-life supporters may feel intimidated," Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said at a press conference Monday. "They may feel that their rights are being chilled and they may not speak out as passionately as they would have."

Helen Alvare, associate professor of Law at George Mason University and former spokesperson and attorney for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there will likely be attempts to link Tiller's killer with the anti-abortion movement at large, which could in turn affect the "hearts and minds" campaign. But it's unlikely to have any major impact in the Senate confirmation process, she said.

"I just don't see the spark here is going to ignite the Sotomayor situation," Alvare told "It will be attempted to influence it ... [but] I don't see it as a game changer."

Abortion rights advocates say Tiller's murder is a "wake-up call" for legislators, and pressed lawmakers to thoroughly vet the Supreme Court nominee.

"I think it will give pro-choice senators and pro-choice public a crucial reminder of how vigilant they need to be to ensure we have Supreme Court justices who strongly understand and support the constitutional protection from Roe v. Wade," Nancy Northup, president of the advocacy organization the Center for Reproductive Rights, told

"I think it intensifies the need for the senators to explore her legal views on the Roe v. Wade decision and projection to the right to abortion in the United States," she added.

Groups on polar opposite sides of the abortion debate were aligned last week in concern over Sotomayor's ill-defined legal position on abortion. With little judicial history to define her stance on the issue, many were wary of the uncertainty of her views and called on senators to ask her to better define her position in the confirmation hearings.

Sotomayor's Views on Abortion a Mystery

Sotomayor has virtually no history of making judgments on abortion cases. Some point to decisions she has made in First Amendment, free speech and civil rights cases that involved the controversial topic in some way, in which she ruled on the side of anti-abortion groups.

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