Fierce

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Appears To Encourage Americans To Turn To Activism To Protect Reproductive Rights

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is making it clear where she stands on a woman’s right to choose. Last Wednesday, the Nuyorican Supreme Court Judge expressed her frustration and feelings of powerlessness over Texas’s SB8 law that bans abortion at six weeks gestation. At a diversity summit hosted by the American Bar Association, Sotomayor was asked a question about the new Texas law.

“There’s going to be a lot of disappointments in the law, a huge amount,” she said, referring to the lack of control she has over SCOTUS’s rulings.

She continued: “As you study cases and look at outcomes you disagree with, it can get frustrating. With a laugh, she added: “Look at me, look at my dissents, okay? At least I have a vehicle, I have a dissent mechanism that I can explain how I feel.”

She then encouraged the summit’s attendees to influence laws themselves through activism. “So you know, I can’t change Texas’s law, but you can” she said. “You can and everyone else who may or may not like it can go out there and be lobbying forces in changing laws that you don’t like.”

Sotomayor was among the four judges who dissented at SCOTUS’s decision not to act on the Texas’s near-total abortion ban.

On September 1st, Texas’s SB8 law officially went into effect when the Supreme Court refused to block the law that many people saw as unconstitutional. At the time, Sotomayor made headlines for writing a fiery dissent that condemning her fellow justices for failing to act on SB8.

“The Court’s order is stunning,” she began her dissent. “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.”

She continued: “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. Because the Court’s failure to act rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review and inflicts significant harm on the applicants and on women seeking abortions in Texas, I dissent.”

As a refresher, Texas’s SB8 law is controversial not only because of its restrictive nature, but because it gives civilians the power to sue people who have “aided and abetted” an abortion.

Many people are criticizing SB8 because it, in effect, encourages people to “spy” on their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to see if they’ve had an abortion. Pro-life organization Texas Right To Life even went so far as to set up a “whistleblower” website that allowed civilians to report people who they suspect of providing an abortion.

Since the law went into effect, many Texas women are being forced to travel to nearby states to get abortions. This consequence negatively impacts low-income women and women of color who do not have the time or resources to travel out of state and take time off work like higher-income women do. Like Justice Sotomayor said, the best course of action now, is to make our voices heard through activism.

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