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Sotomayor would have immediately blocked Texas abortion law

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·2 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in early November about whether it should block Texas's new law that prohibits abortions to be performed in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected. But if it were up to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court would already have scrapped the law.

When the court announced on Friday its decision to hear arguments over whether the Biden administration had the right to sue to end enforcement of the law, Sotomayor indicated that she would already have gone further and blocked it.

"I cannot capture the totality of this harm in these pages," Sotomayor wrote in reference to the Texas law, adding, "The impact is catastrophic."

While Sotomayor agreed with the court's decision to hear arguments, she reiterated her view that the law should never have been allowed to remain in place. 

"These ruinous effects were foreseeable and intentional," she wrote.

In early September, the high court ruled 5-4 to allow the new law to stay in place, but Sotomayor penned a scathing dissent that called the court's refusal to strike down the law "stunning."

"This equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability," she wrote.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor sits onstage in a chair with folders on her lap.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on International Women's Day at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, March 8, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

"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."

A provision of the new law that allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone who helps women get an abortion in the state, including abortion providers, and allows them to be paid at least $10,000 for each successful suit, drew more scorn from Sotomayor.

"The Texas State Legislature has deputized the State's citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors' medical procedures," she wrote in her dissent.

Weeks later, Sotomayor addressed an audience of young lawyers at an event hosted by the American Bar Association.

"You know, I can't change Texas's law, but 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," she said.

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