Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court liberal judges on Monday to set a surprising setback against abortion opponents. He struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana and reaffirmed the court's earlier rulings, which confirmed a woman's right to vote.
With a 5: 4 vote, the court threw out a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have licensing rights in a nearby hospital. When it comes into effect, it should result in the closure of all but one of the state abortion providers.
It was no surprise that the four liberal judges were against the law since they had defeated a similar Texas law four years ago. But the Supreme Judge, a conservative who had consistently opposed abortion rights in the past and voted to comply with Texas law, gave them the fifth vote, citing precedents as the reason.
It was the court's first abortion sentence since the two President Trump nominations had taken their seats, and it destroyed the hopes of those who opposed abortion, who expected the more conservative court to overturn Roe v. Wade, or at least give the states more power narrow down.
It was also the third important decision in the past two weeks in which the Supreme Judge joined the court's four Liberals. The court expanded health and safety protection for LGBTQ employees and blocked Trump's lifting of the Obama-era policy, which protected so-called dreamers from deportation.
In a statement by the White House press secretary, the decision was described as "unfortunate" and added that "unelected judges have invaded the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own political preference in favor of abortion to legitimate abortion security regulations override. "
Anti-abortion advocates voiced the loss politically, saying the ruling underlines the need to re-elect Trump in November so that he can appoint another conservative judiciary to give the fifth vote to overturn Roe vs. Calf is required.
"Today's verdict is a bitter disappointment," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, which is against abortion. "It is imperative that we re-elect President Trump and our near-life majority in the US Senate so that we can continue to restore justice, particularly the Supreme Court."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the alleged Democratic presidential candidate, said the November elections were vital to protecting abortion rights.
"Let's be clear: Republicans in state legislatures won't shy away from anything to get rid of Roe – and we need to be just as strong in our defense," said Biden. "They are trying to contest these laws with the Supreme Court in the hope that Trump's judges will vote to overthrow Roe v. Wade. It's wrong. It's harmful. And we have to stop it."
Roberts said in a 16-page consensus statement against June Medical Services against Russo that he disagreed with the legal justification in Judge Stephen Breyer's decision, along with the three other liberal judges that the court should offset health costs and benefits from any abortion regime . A similar argument was used to defeat Texas law.
Nevertheless, Roberts decided that the court should honor the outcome of the Texas decision.
“The legal doctrine of the rigid decision demands that we treat cases the same way without special circumstances. The Louisiana law puts as much strain on access to abortion as the Texas law does for the same reasons. Therefore, the Louisiana law cannot be under our precedent, ”he said.
Roberts' decision to close the ideological gap to support a liberal precedent is in line with his expressed concern that the court is increasingly viewed by Americans from a partisan perspective. Roberts likes to say in public statements that the judges do not rule cases as Republicans or Democrats.
Some Senate Republicans turned their anger on the Supreme Judge. "When it comes to preserving its legitimacy as an apolitical institution, the court should not make decisions based on how its judgments are perceived politically," said Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “The problem with today's decision is the absolutely terrible case law. Simply bad lawyers. "
Roberts' opinion on Monday indicated that he would comply with some abortion regulations, but not those that severely hinder women. Roberts also described the court's 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood Vs. as a precedent. Casey, in which the central principle of Roe vs. Wade affirmed that states may not be a "major obstacle" to women seeking abortion.
In a line that could worry abortion rights advocates, Roberts also noted that in the Louisiana case, "no party asked us to rethink the constitutional validity of this standard." This left the possibility open that he would be open to toppling Roe against Wade and the right to abortion if this question were brought directly to the court.
Roberts & # 39; Overflow is not a good sign for at least a dozen Republican states that have passed laws in the past two years that would severely restrict or even prohibit abortion.
Former judge Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate Republican, had cast decisive votes with liberals for years to maintain the right to abortion.
Four years ago, the court suppressed a Texas law that is almost identical to the Louisiana law, on the grounds that it imposed a heavy burden on women seeking abortion because it closed more than half of state clinics, in which abortions were carried out. Women who lived outside of the state's major cities would have to travel hundreds of kilometers to find an open clinic. In a 5: 3 vote with Kennedy, the court said that the burden of state restrictions far outweighed the claimed health benefits.
Roberts was one of the conservative dissenters at the time. After Kennedy retired in 2018, he was replaced by the more conservative judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Last year, four members of the court – judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – voted for the Louisiana law to enter into force as soon as it is confirmed by the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans has been. But Roberts joined the four Liberals to put the law on hold while its constitutionality was being reviewed.
Advocates of abortion rights were relieved by Monday's decision, but not ready to achieve a final victory.
Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of the Hope Medical Group for women in Shreveport, La., Described the mood in the clinic on Monday morning as "absolute dizziness". But she added: "This week we win the fight and that means we can stay open to fight another day. But as a provider, I tell you, I'm celebrating today, but I'm still worried about ours Future. "
Others said the court narrowly avoided a devastating setback for colored women. Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Civil Justice Lawyers' Committee on Economic Justice Project, said: "The Louisiana law would have had a particularly strong impact on low-income black women who have long had to face systemic and structural barriers to health care, including abortion."
The court heard arguments in the case in the first week of March, just before the court, like much of Washington, was closed for the outbreak of the corona virus. The judges sounded very divided, and the chief judge did not announce how he would choose.
Lawyers for Louisiana defended the admission rule as a health and safety measure. They said it would help to ensure that only competent and trustworthy doctors performed abortions and that their patients could be taken to hospital quickly in an emergency.
Abortion rights lawyers called the rule a deception and a misleading program to close already contested abortion clinics. They said that because early abortions are very safe, patients are rarely taken to hospital. As a rule, hospitals grant access authorization to doctors who regularly send patients there. And because abortion is still controversial, many hospitals, particularly in small towns and rural areas, are concerned about being connected to a doctor who performs abortions.
During the March dispute, they informed the judges that pregnant women might be forced to travel several hundred miles to New Orleans to see a doctor who would provide an abortion if Louisiana law was followed and the Shreveport clinic closed .
The Times employee, Jenny Jarvie from Atlanta, contributed to this report.