Roberts Joins Liberals To Deliver Abortion Rights Victory

Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion law

The Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion protections on Monday, striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction that, if allowed to be implemented, could have made the state the first to be without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade.

The law required that doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, which the justices said led to an undue burden on women. SCOTUSblog has early coverage. Four years ago, in 2016, the court declared a almost identical Texas statute unconstitutional in Whole Women's Health vs. Hellerstedt.

In his concurring opinion with the majority on June Medical, Roberts explained that he still believed his 2016 opinion that "the case was wrongly decided", but he joined the majority this time around because "the question today" is on "whether to adhere to [the Whole Woman's case] in deciding the present case". In his stinging dissent, the conservative justice wrote that Roe v. Wade "created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution's text". He wrote: "The legal doctrine of stare decisis [respect for precedent] requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike". Monday's decision, which resembles a 2016 case involving a similar Texas law, is a defeat for pro-life activists who hoped Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement would prompt an immediate rupture with the Court's pro-abortion jurisprudence.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor indicated in Monday's order that they would have taken up the appeal.

However, in 2018, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals surprised court watchers by reversing a decision on the Louisiana law that struck it down based on the 2016 Supreme Court case.

Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, tells me: "Today's decision is a victory for women and a victory for the rule of law, two vital components of a functioning democracy". "By deciding that abortion doctors and clinics need to follow a separate, less stringent set of rules than every other medical facility leaves women open to the consequences of an industry that has mastered cutting corners on healthcare".

In the past two weeks, Chief Justice Roberts has voted with the court's liberal wing in three major cases - on job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, on a program protecting young immigrants known as Dreamers and now on abortion. "We consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional". "The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous".

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Justice Breyer wrote that the law imposed great burdens on access to abortion but did nothing to protect women's health, its ostensible goal.

Breyer said that the law offered "no significant health benefit" but would "make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the Sate's asserted interests in promoting women's health and safety", thereby placing a "substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion". Given the facts found, we must also uphold the District Court's related factual and legal determinations.

Physicians for reproductive health, a national advocacy organization, said: "This is great news and affirms what we know to be true. medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care are unlawful and unsafe".

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices did the opposite.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the case was "brought by abortionists and abortion clinics" who did not have legal standing.

"The idea that a regulated party can invoke the right of a third party for the objective of attacking legislation enacted to protect the third party is stunning. It's wrong for doctors who are profiting off of women to come in with this conflict of interest and pretend they speak for women when they're really asking for an exemption that jeopardizes women's health".

Brett Kavanaugh, meanwhile, whom many Republican senators said would honor precedents - Susan Collins, I'm looking in your direction - apparently had no qualms about overturning the Supreme Court's decision from four years ago.

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