All the clap emojis for this dissent.
It actually happened, and reproductive rights advocates are in shock. Late on Sept. 1, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 not to block a Texas abortion law, the most restrictive in the country, from going into effect. As of Sept. 1, abortions in Texas are banned at six weeks, or about two weeks after a person’s first missed period, and before many people will even know they’re pregnant. However, even as it went into effect, many people denounced the new law — including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who seriously did not hold back.
Reproductive rights advocates had brought a hail mary request to the Supreme Court to block the Texas law, known as SB8, from going into effect while legal challenges to it could work their way through the courts. However, the court declined to do so, with the five conservative justices ruling in an unsigned majority opinion that the abortion law presented “complex and novel” procedural questions and that the refusal to block the law didn’t prevent legal challenges from continuing after the law was in effect. Meanwhile, all three liberal justices, plus Chief Justice John Roberts (usually a swing vote) filed dissents in the abortion case. While all three dissents take the same general stance — until the case is fully argued, considered, and resolved, Texas should maintain the status quo — Sotomayor’s is particularly vehement.
“The Court’s order is stunning,” her dissent begins. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
It doesn’t soften from there. Sotomayor also called the new law “clearly unconstitutional under existing precedents” and “a breathtaking act of defiance — of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.” She also took aim at the law’s provision that makes private citizens responsible for enforcing the law via civil lawsuits, putting a $10,000 reward on any suit that finds someone “aided” an abortion after six weeks. “In effect, the Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures,” she wrote.
She also shot straight at her colleagues’ reasoning in allowing the law to go into effect. “Today, the Court finally tells the Nation that it declined to act because, in short, the State’s gambit worked,” she added. “The structure of the State’s scheme, the Court reasons, raises ‘complex and novel antecedent procedural questions’ that counsel against granting the [injunction] ... This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry.”
“The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law,” she finished. “I dissent.”
Although the law has been allowed to go into effect, advocates are far from giving up the fight, and there are still many ways supporters can help defend abortion rights. In a statement shared with Elite Daily on Sept. 2, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the center intends to keep going. “We are devastated that the Supreme Court has refused to block a law that blatantly violates Roe v. Wade,” she said. “This should send chills down the spine of everyone in this country who cares about the constitution. We will keep fighting this ban until abortion access is restored in Texas.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the lead plaintiff in the case, highlighted the reality on the ground for abortion providers and patients in Texas. “Our patients are scared and confused and desperately trying to figure out what they can do to get an abortion. We don’t know what will happen next. Our staff and providers are so afraid,” she said in a Sept. 2 statement shared with Elite Daily. “We are complying with the ban, and our four Texas clinics are still open.”
“Please join us to fight back,” Hagstrom Miller added. “Texans deserve better.”