The Most Blistering Lines From Sotomayor’s Extraordinary Dissent in Today’s Abortion Ruling

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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In a stinging rebuke of today’s Supreme Court decision to allow Texas’ extreme anti-abortion law to remain in effect while local abortion providers sue state officials, Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stark warning of long-lasting consequences. “I doubt the Court, let alone the country, is prepared for them,” she wrote in a published dissent that highlights the “catastrophic consequences” pregnant people have already endured under the law, and draws startling comparisons between the majority’s decision and Civil War–era defenses of slavery.

Joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in her dissent, Sotomayor slammed the Texas law as “an unconstitutional scheme” enacted in “open defiance” of women’s rights—a “madness” that the Supreme Court should have put to an end to months ago. By allowing the law to continue, she argued, the court “betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government.” (The court effectively allowed the Texas law to take effect back on September 1.)

Sotomayor, who expressed similar alarm during oral arguments in another unrelated abortion case this month, described the Texas law as a “calamitous” because it empowers bounty hunters to prey upon an extraordinary range of potential victims: “a medical provider, a receptionist, a friend who books an appointment, or a ride-share driver who takes a woman to a clinic.” Beyond that, she wrote the architects of the law went to extraordinary lengths to target people involved in offering abortion care with “uniquely punitive” measures, a catalogue of norm-breaking departures from state law that amounts to “a weapon.”

In an especially gripping section of the 13-page opinion, Sotomayor wrote that Texas’ brazen challenge to federal law “echoes 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.”

“The Nation fought a Civil War over that proposition,” she argued. “But Calhoun’s theories were not extinguished.”

Read the entire dissent here.

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