Sonia Sotomayor Sternly Rebuts GOP Over Abortion Ban

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is continuing to lay out the case against the Texas ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, which has been in effect for months despite the long-standing legal precedent that’s supposed to broadly allow abortions across the United States.

Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that legal challenges could proceed in relation to the abortion law against certain licensing officials in Texas who would take retaliatory action against medical facilities determined to have violated the ban. The Washington Post explains that “the Supreme Court sent the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which covers Texas. But instead of returning it to a federal judge in Austin who had previously stopped the law, the appeals court agreed with a request from Texas to ask the state supreme court to clarify a matter of state law: whether those identified officials really had such an enforcement power.” Abortion providers wanted the Supreme Court to order the matter to be sent back to that district judge, which the court’s majority has decided against.

The abortion providers’ request had a foundation in the conclusions of certain Supreme Court Justices themselves. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote last year — in something to which the three liberal justices signed on — that considering “the ongoing chilling effect of the state law, the district court should resolve this litigation and enter appropriate relief without delay.” As the Post recaps, “[eight] of the nine justices said litigation could proceed against the officials, and four said they expected the case to go back to the district judge and be dealt with quickly” — but this Texas-covering appeals court has instead opted to mire the case in further procedural arguments, acquiescing to Texas state officials.

In her dissent from the decision of the majority of the court’s justices to deny abortion providers’ hopes of ordering the case to be sent back to that district judge, Sotomayor observed that “after directing that the petitioners’ suit could proceed in part, the Court countenances yet another violation of its own commands. Instead of stopping a Fifth Circuit panel from indulging Texas’ newest delay tactics, the Court allows the State yet again to extend the deprivation of the federal constitutional rights of its citizens through procedural manipulation. The Court may look the other way, but I cannot.” She pointedly added as follows:

‘Because our precedents are clear that Texas cannot directly ban abortion before viability, the state legislature enacted a convoluted law that instills terror in those who assist women exercising their rights between 6 and 24 weeks. State officials knew that the fear and confusion caused by this legal-procedural labyrinth would restrict citizens from accessing constitutionally protected medical care, providers from offering it, and federal courts from restoring it. The dilatory tactics to which this Court accedes today are consistent with, and part of, this scheme… This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies. I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee.’

The “labyrinth” to which Sotomayor referred involves an arrangement where private individuals can bring lawsuits against those suspected of involvement in the procurement of outlawed abortions. Those who bring and win such cases are entitled to at least $10,000 — essentially setting up a bounty system targeting the exercising of reproductive rights. Read more at this link.

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