During a Wednesday hearing regarding a Mississippi law banning most abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Justice Sonia Sotomayor — an appointee of Barack Obama and one of the court’s more liberal members — absolutely tore into the politicization of the judicial process that has been perpetrated by certain right-wingers, including those defending the Mississippi law. Apart from the foundational right to an abortion that has previously been established in the United States, Sotomayor poignantly questioned how the U.S. will even be able to “survive” in the event that people take “everything” as “political.” That perception is exactly what right-wing attacks on the court system prop up.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a consistent supporter of abortion rights, grilled Mississippi's solicitor general, asking whether the institution of the Supreme Court would "survive the stench" of overturning Roe in what would appear to be a political act. https://t.co/sbHcIObnjQ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 1, 2021
Abortion rights have been under consistent attack from conservative leaders across the country, including in Texas, where a new law remains on the books but under intense dispute that bans almost all abortions. Meanwhile, as Sotomayor pointedly put it amid the Mississippi law-related proceedings:
‘Now, the sponsors of this bill… said we’re doing it because we have new justices… Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible… [Certain rulings] have such an entrenched set of expectations in our society — that this is what the court decided; this is what we will follow — that we won’t be able to survive if people believe that everything… [is] all political. How will we survive? How will the court survive?’
Check out Sotomayor’s remarks below:
Sotomayor says the sponsors of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban said "we're doing it because we have new justices."
She asks: "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?" pic.twitter.com/T2MmA56ddf
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) December 1, 2021
Although NBC reported around the conclusion of the proceedings on Wednesday that the court “appeared prepared… to uphold” the Mississippi law, that’s a separate question from whether the court would go after the right to an abortion laid out by the Roe v. Wade decision. Justice Stephen Breyer — another liberal member of the court — said that it’s “particularly important to show that what we do in overturning a case is grounded in principle and not social pressure,” while fellow liberal member Justice Elena Kagan added that the court should avoid actions that create the perception that the Supreme Court is “a political institution that will go back and forth, depending on what part of the public yells the loudest or changes to the court’s membership.”
Justices Breyer, Sotomayor & Kagan trying to focus the other Justices on the damage to the public’s confidence in the Court if it reverse Roe, leaving the public to see it as a political institution that goes “back & forth depending on what part of the public tells the loudest”
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 1, 2021