Late Wednesday night in a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block SB 8, a law that bans abortion at six weeks and rewards private citizens $10,000 for successfully bounty hunting abortion providers.
The five conservative leaning justices Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett voted in favor of not blocking the ban because it is unclear whether or not lawsuits preventing abortions will be brought to Texas courts, according to opinions from the court.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who usually votes conservative, joined the three democratic leaning judges on the bench in dissent of the decision.This means former President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court Justice picks, Barrett and Kavanaugh, solidified the court’s decision.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority Justices are burying their heads in the sand and that this law is clearly unconstitutional under existing precedents.
“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,” Sotomayor wrote. “In effect, the Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.”
Sotomayor also called out the Texas legislature creating a bill that puts citizens against one another and takes away power from federal courts.
“In effect, the Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures,” she wrote. “By prohibiting state officers from enforcing the Act directly and relying instead on citizen bounty hunters, the Legislature sought to make it more complicated for federal courts to enjoin the Act on a statewide basis.”
According to the Justices, this case was a “shadow-docket” decision, an emergency proceeding that goes against the normal appellate process.
In another dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan, wrote that the Court’s shadow-docket decision lacks guidance from the Court of Appeals and is against previous precedents Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
Both of these cases upheld the constitutionality of a person’s right to obtain an abortion.
“Without full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours’ thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas’s patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions,” Kagan wrote. “And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion—that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”
In a statement Thursday morning, President Joe Biden denounced the ban and the Supreme Court’s decision. He also said he directed his White House Council, the Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a federal effort in response to the Court’s decision.
“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” Biden wrote. “I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Council to launch a response to this decision.. to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced the House will vote on a bill to codify Roe v. Wade as soon as they return from recess.
Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.