Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abor­tion law, with Roberts the de­cid­ing vote

Miami Herald - - Front Page - BY ADAM LIPTAK The New York Times


The Supreme Court on Mon­day struck down a Louisiana law that could have left the state with a sin­gle abor­tion clinic, dash­ing the hopes of con­ser­va­tives who were count­ing on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ap­point­ments to lead the court to sus­tain re­stric­tions on abor­tion rights and, even­tu­ally, to over­rule Roe v. Wade.

In­stead, con­ser­va­tives suf­fered a set­back, and from an un­likely source. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts added his cru­cial fifth vote to those of the court’s fourmem­ber lib­eral wing, say­ing that re­spect for prece­dent com­pelled him to do so, even though he had voted to up­hold an es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal Texas law in a 2016 dis­sent.

In the past two weeks, 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. While the chief jus­tice has on oc­ca­sion dis­ap­pointed his usual con­ser­va­tive al­lies, noth­ing in his 15-year ten­ure on the court com­pares to the re­cent run of lib­eral votes in ma­jor cases.

Con­ser­va­tives re­acted with fury. “Chief Jus­tice Roberts is at it again with his po­lit­i­cal games­man­ship,” Sen. Ted Cruz, RTexas, said on Twit­ter. “This time he has sided with abor­tion ex­trem­ists who care more about pro­vid­ing abor­tion-on-de­mand than pro­tect­ing women’s health.”

Pro­gres­sive groups coun­tered that the court’s de­ci­sion was a rou­tine ap­pli­ca­tion of prece­dent.

Jus­tice Stephen Breyer, writ­ing for the ma­jor­ity, said the Louisiana law was “al­most word-for-word iden­ti­cal” to the one from Texas that the Supreme Court struck down in the 2016 de­ci­sion, Whole Wo­man’s Health v. Heller­st­edt.

Both laws re­quired doc­tors per­form­ing abor­tions to have ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at nearby hos­pi­tals. And in both cases, Breyer wrote, the laws put an un­due bur­den on the con­sti­tu­tional right to the pro­ce­dure.

The court’s de­ci­sion to re­visit the is­sue of ad­mis­sions priv­i­leges had wor­ried pro­po­nents of abor­tion rights given Roberts’ sup­port for the Texas law. Since that rul­ing, Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, who had voted to over­turn the law, was re­placed by the more con­ser­va­tive Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh.

But in the end, Roberts’ com­mit­ment to prece­dent sank the Louisiana law.

ALEX WONG Getty Im­ages

Pro-life ac­tivists par­tic­i­pate in a demon­stra­tion in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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