Sonia Sotomayor Gives Passionate Rebuttal To Conservative Judges


In a newly released dissenting opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shredded the infamous — and still on the books — Texas abortion law, which bans most abortions in the state after some six weeks of pregnancy. She characterized the push behind the law as on par with ‘the philosophy of John C. Calhoun, a virulent defender of the slaveholding South who insisted that States had the right to “veto” or “nullif[y]” any federal law with which they disagreed.’ At issue is the fact that — among other things — there’s a clearly established federal right to an abortion, which Texas has opted to ignore in favor of its ideology-fueled struggle against pregnant people and those who may become pregnant.

Sotomayor released her remarks in conjunction to the court’s conclusion that lawsuits may be brought against certain officials in Texas over the harshly restrictive abortion law. Whether such lawsuits could be brought at all became a pressing legal question in connection to Texas’s decision to place a substantial part of the responsibility of enforcing its abortion ban on private citizens. Under the law’s provisions, private individuals may bring lawsuits against those who are suspected of involvement in the procurement of an illegal abortion — with financial rewards promised to those whose lawsuits are successful, essentially setting up a bounty system.

Sotomayor singled out the fact that the Supreme Court has now repeatedly failed to stop the draconian Texas law from remaining in effect, even if it found that legal challenges can be brought against executive licensing officials in Texas who would take retaliatory action against medical facilities found to have violated the abortion ban. That’s a small win — and not as far as the court could have gone in protecting Texans’ rights, Sotomayor observed. As Sotomayor put it, referring to the law:

‘The Court should have put an end to this madness months ago, before S.B. 8 first went into effect. It failed to do so then, and it fails again today. I concur in the Court’s judgment that the petitioners’ suit may proceed against certain executive licensing officials who retain enforcement authority under Texas law, and I trust the District Court will act expeditiously to enter much-needed relief. I dissent, however, from the Court’s dangerous departure from its precedents, which establish that federal courts can and should issue relief when a State enacts a law that chills the exercise of a constitutional right and aims to evade judicial review. By foreclosing suit against state-court officials and the state attorney general, the Court effectively invites other States to refine S.B. 8’s model for nullifying federal rights. The Court thus betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government.’

The majority of justices on the court rejected the prospect of suing officials in the Texas state justice system in connection to the abortion ban, and as Sotomayor lays out, allowing for only the thinnest of victories could leave right-wing extremists in other states feeling emboldened to pursue their own destructive agendas.

Featured Image (edited): via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and available under a Creative Commons License