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Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasts Supreme Court’s handling of Texas abortion case as a ‘disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks at Tufts University on September 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts.

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  • Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissent to the Supreme Court rejecting a request from Texas abortion providers.
  • “This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas,” Sotomayor wrote.
  • Texas abortion providers had asked the Supreme Court to intervene in their legal challenge.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday wrote a fiery dissent to the Supreme Court’s decision to reject another request from Texas abortion providers seeking to block the state’s six-week ban on abortions.

“Today, for the fourth time, this Court declines to protect pregnant Texans from egregious violations of their constitutional rights,” Sotomayor, who’s served on the bench since 2009, wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by fellow liberal Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

Texas abortion providers had asked the Supreme Court to intervene in their legal challenge against the six-week law by sending the case back to a federal district court, which previously declared the law as unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, without providing any reasoning, denied their request.

The decision represents a setback to Texas abortion providers that have been trying to block the law for months. 

“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies. I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee,” Sotomayor wrote.

The Supreme Court has largely sidestepped the case as litigation continues in the lower courts. In a ruling last month, the nation’s highest court allowed Texas abortion providers to proceed with a federal lawsuit against some state officials, but let the law stand in the meantime, dealing a blow to abortion-rights supporters.

The legal challenge returned to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country, which on Monday sent the case to the Texas Supreme Court. The move is widely expected to delay the case, which in turn would keep the law in place for longer.

The Texas law in question, known as SB 8, is the most restrictive abortion statute in the nation and bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women do not yet know they are pregnant.

Abortion-rights supporters say the law is in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide and guaranteed the right to the procedure up until around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Previous six-week abortion bans introduced by GOP-led states over the years have failed in the courts. But since the Texas law took effect on September 1, it has managed to survive legal challenges because of its unique design, which calls on private citizens, rather than state officials, to enforce the ban. That means any individual can sue an abortion provider or anyone who they believe “aids and abets” someone getting an abortion beyond the six-week mark, leaving state officials out of the equation. Successful plaintiffs will be rewarded at least $10,000, in addition to legal fees.

In her dissent, Sotomayor wrote that the Supreme Court “allows the State yet again to extend the deprivation of the federal constitutional rights of its citizens through procedural manipulation.”

“The Court may look the other way, but I cannot,” she added.

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