John Roberts Joins Liberal Justices in Ruling on Louisiana Abortion Law

Supreme Court
Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic law
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11 February, 2019

Chief Justice John Roberts split from what is considered the court's conservative branch to join the high court's liberal wing -- Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - in granting the stay. The Louisiana law was nearly identical to a Texas law the court struck down before Justice Anthony M. Kennedy retired. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana abortion access law that opponents said would limit the state to a single doctor who could perform the procedure. But their anger at Roberts is completely misplaced. There's no reason to think that Chief Justice Roberts is particularly sympathetic to abortion rights claims on the merits.

The Supreme Court in 2016 struck down a Texas law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges.

Perhaps most interesting and significant aspect of the decision for the immediate future of the court was the composition of the majority and minority sides.

The two judges who voted in favor of the law argued that the facts were different in Louisiana from those at issue in the Texas case and that the Louisiana law would have a lesser impact on women seeking abortions than the Supreme Court had found regarding the Texas law.

During an appearance on Wednesday at Belmont University College of Law in Tennessee, Roberts spoke of the "great responsibility" that comes with the job. Rather than repealing Roe v. Wade outright, it's probably the best way for conservatives to achieve their goal of getting something identical to a repeal while avoiding at least some of the ensuing controversy. "The 5th Circuit previously examined the facts and concluded Louisiana's law does not constitute a burden and is a reasonable step to protect women".

The one conservative who did not vote to ignore SCOTUS precedent is the only conservative on the court who you could say cares more about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court than conservative ideology. That would be a tacit acknowledgment that a majority of the justices no longer support the 2016 decision, and an invitation to anti-abortion state legislatures to pass more laws aimed at gutting Roe v. Wade without reversing it outright.

According to the newest Supreme Court justice, there are now four doctors in Louisiana that perform abortions at the state's three abortions clinics. Eleven judges on the appeals court are Republican appointees, five of them Trump appointees.

"While some doctors could promise 10 patients a year in exchange for admitting privileges, an abortion provider would struggle to refer 10 patients in their entire career", Tu said.

Jeff Greenfield, a longtime political reporter on television, said on Twitter that Collins was "either delusional or disingenuous" when she declared Kavanaugh would not seek to restrict abortions.

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Kennedy and Roberts likely would not differ on that issue.

In his dissent, Kavanaugh argued that the CPR had acted too hastily in challenging the law, saying the group should have waited for Louisiana's law to go into effect before going to court.

Others are more pessimistic.

"The new makeup of the Supreme Court indicated that it was likely it would have gone through, which would have had devastating consequences", she said. The state denied his request, telling him that he could have a Christian chaplain or no one.

President Trump's two nominees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in dissenting. "We're elated in the sense of we just dodged a bullet".

Roberts has been there for them in that quest, in cases, such as Hobby Lobby, that carved out areas where Christians need not follow laws they find displeasing. There's no guarantee that Roberts will be with his liberal colleagues then. He eviscerated campaign finance law in Citizens United.

Already on the calendar for next term is the court's first examination of gun rights in nine years. He gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.

"We are disappointed this law has been enjoined, but we are hopeful that the state of Louisiana will prevail in the end", Travis Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in written comments for Baptist Press. And that's what he'll keep doing.


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