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Justice Sonia Sotomayor Wrote a Blistering Dissent to Court’s “Perverse” Decision Not To Block Texas’ Abortion Ban

Protesters hold up signs as they march down Congress Ave at a pro-abortion protest

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court made a surprise announcement that it would hand down one or more opinions today, without specifying which cases they would be ruling on.

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As many predicted, given the magnitude of the case, the court’s decisions did turn out to be related to S.B. 8, Texas’ abortion ban that deputizes civilians to enforce it. The news was not great.

The good(ish) news is that the court ruled that the lawsuits filed by abortion providers and advocates could move forward against some defendants.

The very bad news is that the court once again refused to block the law while those suits move forward, just as they did in September—meaning that for the last three and a half months, people in Texas have not had, and continue to not have, access to safe and legal abortion in their state.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the dissent in the 5–4 case, focusing on the impact this decision will have on the court, rather than on women and pregnant or potentially pregnant people’s rights.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor also wrote a dissenting opinion, and once again, just as she did back in September, she truly annihilated the conservative majority with her opinion.

Sotomayor called the decision and its reasoning “perverse” and a “brazen challenge to our federal structure.” She said the argument behind this case “echoes 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.”

“The Nation fought a Civil War over that proposition, but Calhoun’s theories were not extinguished,” she writes.

As she showed in September, Sotomayor has clear disgust for the fact that her conservative colleagues are allowing Texas to implement this attack on people’s constitutional rights through the law’s brazen loopholes.

“My disagreement with the Court runs far deeper than a quibble over how many defendants these petitioners may sue,” Sotomayor writes. “The dispute is over whether States may nullify federal constitutional rights by employing schemes like the one at hand. The Court indicates that they can, so long as they write their laws to more thoroughly disclaim all enforcement by state officials, including licensing officials. This choice to shrink from Texas’ challenge to federal supremacy will have far-reaching repercussions. I doubt the Court, let alone the country, is prepared for them.”

(image: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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