A horrifically restrictive anti-abortion bill became law in Texas on Wednesday, effectively banning the procedure in the state. The act, formerly known as Senate Bill 8, prohibits abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus—typically possible at around six weeks of gestation, well before most people even realize they’re pregnant. Equally as alarming, the legislation deputizes private citizens to sue individuals they suspect of having, providing, or facilitating an abortion by promising $10,000 rewards for every successful bounty hunter.
The U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to stop the Texas Legislature from “actively trying to turn a safe procedure [like abortion] into a dangerous one” by way of criminalization, as Prostitute Laundry and Nb author Charlotte Shane wrote in a must-read op-ed for Gawker titled “Stop Being Stupid About Abortion.” But the Justices failed, allowing the act to take effect in a 6-3 decision issued just before the bill became law
In her dissent, published in full over at The Nation on Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized her fellow Supreme Court justices for “opt[ing] to bury their heads in the sand” when confronted with a law that’s so “flagrantly” and “clearly unconstitutional under existing precedents.” She writes:
Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance—of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas...
This is untenable... At a minimum, this Court should have stayed implementation of the Act to allow the lower courts to evaluate these issues in the normal course. Instead, the Court has rewarded the State’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the Court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the State’s own creation.
The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.
“I dissent,” she writes in closing.
You can read Justice Sotomayor’s full dissent here.