Fierce

Justice Sonia Sotomayor Warns of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ As Abortion Still Remains Nearly Inaccessible in Texas

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The battle for the fate of Roe v. Wade continues. On Friday, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) said that abortion providers can pursue a federal lawsuit against Texas’s near-total abortion ban, also known as S.B. 8. But, SCOTUS said that abortion providers can only sue Texas licensing officials. (We know what you’re thinking: “Who?” Exactly.) And, as usual, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is not happy with the way the court is leaning on the issue. 

In a fiery dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote that SCOTUS “should have put an end to this madness months ago, before S. B. 8 first went into effect,” but “it failed to do so then, and it fails again today.”

Justice Sotomayor then, once again, condemned her fellow justices for allowing the “catastrophic consequences for women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion in Texas.” 

As a refresher, S.B. 8 bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected — that’s six weeks after a woman’s last period. The ban is considered “near total,” because many women don’t even realize they are pregnant by six weeks. 

What does SCOTUS’s decision mean, though? Well, for one thing, it doesn’t determine S.B. 8’s legality. So, Texas’s abortion-ban is still in place. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights explained the situation in clear terms via Twitter. “The U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed Texas’s bounty hunting scheme in a case challenging Texas’s abortion ban,” they wrote. The “bounty hunting scheme” refers to S.B. 8 allowing private citizens to sue anyone involved in “aiding and abetting” an abortion, including friends, family members or abortion providers (but not the woman terminating the pregnancy herself). 

“While allowing the case to move forward on narrow grounds, the Court has NOT blocked the law, meaning abortion remains mostly inaccessible in TX,” wrote the CRR about the lawsuit that the SCOTUS was making a decision on. 

“#SCOTUS has foreclosed abortion providers and advocates’ primary avenues for relief, but we will be returning to the district court nonetheless to continue fighting for our clients.” Here, the CRR is referring to abortion providers only being allowed to sue Texas licensing officials who are responsible for licensing reproductive healthcare facilities. 

We know, it’s complicated. And it’s deliberately meant to be. The more complicated it is to challenge S.B. 8, the less likely it is to be stricken. 

In Sotomayor’s lengthy dissent, which you can read here, she also called the reasoning behind S.B. 8’s as similar to “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.”

Sotomayor believes that in allowing S.B. 8 to stand, SCOTUS will clear the way for other states to find slippery solutions to evading federal laws that they don’t like.

As SCOTUS continues to turn their heads to the preponderance of anti-abortion laws, they seem to be signaling to the public that it’s only a matter of time before the landmark Roe v. Wade 1973 ruling becomes null.

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