Dobbs v. Jackson Recap: Seven Times Justice Sotomayor Stood Up for Abortion Rights

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swears Vice President Kamala Harris into office during the 59th presidential inauguration in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. (Department of Defense / Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Feminists and abortion advocates went into Wednesday’s oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization with a sense of dread and foreboding at the potential loss of Roe. Now the arguments are complete and we wait with bated breath until June of 2022 for a decision on the future of abortion rights in the U.S. 

Despite a dismal outlook from experts, the pro-abortion Supreme Court justices put up a good fight. Justice Sonia Sotomayor in particular had several remarkable standout moments. Through quick quips and accessible language steeped in facts and research, she repeatedly reminded us why she’s known as “the people’s justice.”


The right of a woman to choose, the right to control her own body, has been clearly set … since Casey and never challenged. You want us to reject that line of viability and adopt something different. 


Fifteen justices over 50 years … have reaffirmed that basic viability line. Four have said no—two of them members of this Court. But 15 justices have said yes, of varying political backgrounds. Now the sponsors of this House bill in Mississippi said we’re doing it because we have new justices … on the Supreme Court.

Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? 


JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: May I finish my inquiry? 

STEWART: Of course, Justice Sotomayor. 


A gross minority of doctors … believe fetal pain exists before 24, 25 weeks—it’s a huge minority and one not well founded in science at all. 


Here, the Court would … be telling the women of America that … the ability to control their bodies and perhaps the most important decision they can make about whether to bring a child into this world is not part of their protected liberty, and I think that that would come at tremendous cost to the reliance that women have placed on this right and on societal reliance and what this right has meant for further ensuring equality.

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Supporters with the Center for Reproductive Rights outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, the night before oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (Instagram)

When does the life of a woman and putting her at risk enter the calculus? Meaning, right now, forcing women who are poor—and that’s 75 percent of the population and much higher percentage of those women in Mississippi who elect abortions before viability—they are put at a tremendously greater risk of medical complications and ending their life. [It’s] 14 times greater to give birth to a child full term, than it is to have an abortion before viability.

And now the state is saying to these women, we can choose not only to physically complicate your existence, put you at medical risk, make you poorer by the choice because we believe, what?


How is your interest anything but a religious view? The issue of when life begins has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It’s still debated in religions. So, when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that’s a religious view, isn’t it?


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About and

Roxy Szal is the digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.
Oliver Haug is a social media editor and podcast producer with Ms. magazine. They are also a freelance journalist, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and sexual politics. Their writing has previously appeared in Bitch Magazine, VICE, them.us, the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit," and elsewhere. You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on Twitter @cohaug.