Roberts, high court lib­er­als toss strict abor­tion law.

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Sher­man Mark Sher­man is an Associated Press writer.

WASH­ING­TON — A di­vided Supreme Court on Mon­day struck down a Louisiana law reg­u­lat­ing abor­tion clin­ics, re­assert­ing a com­mit­ment to abor­tion rights over fierce op­po­si­tion from dis­sent­ing con­ser­va­tive jus­tices in the first big abor­tion case of the Trump era.

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts and his four more lib­eral col­leagues ruled that the law re­quir­ing doc­tors who per­form abor­tions to have ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at nearby hos­pi­tals vi­o­lates abor­tion rights the court first an­nounced in the land­mark Roe vs. Wade de­ci­sion in 1973.

The out­come is not the last word on the decades­long fight over abor­tion with dozens of state re­stric­tions wind­ing their way through the courts. But the de­ci­sion was a sur­pris­ing de­feat for abor­tion op­po­nents, who thought that a new con

ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity with two of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ap­pointees on board would start chip­ping away at abor­tion ac­cess.

The key vote be­longed to Roberts, who had al­ways voted against abor­tion rights be­fore, in­clud­ing in a 2016 case in which the court struck down a Texas law that was vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the one in Louisiana.

The chief jus­tice wrote he con­tin­ues to think the Texas case was wrongly de­cided, but be­lieves it’s im­por­tant for the court to stand by its prior de­ci­sions. “The re­sult in this case is con­trolled by our de­ci­sion four years ago,” Roberts wrote.

The case was the third in two weeks in which

Roberts, a Ge­orge W. Bush ap­pointee, joined the court’s lib­er­als in the ma­jor­ity. One of the ear­lier de­ci­sions pre­served the le­gal pro­tec­tions and work au­tho­riza­tion for 650,000 im­mi­grants who were brought to the U.S. as chil­dren. The other ex­tended fed­eral em­ploy­ment­dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions to LGBT Amer­i­cans.

In dis­sent, Jus­tice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a ma­jor­ity of the Court per­pet­u­ates its ill­founded abor­tion ju­rispru­dence by en­join­ing a per­fectly le­git­i­mate state law and do­ing so with­out ju­ris­dic­tion.”

Ni­cholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images

Anti­abor­tion demon­stra­tors gather in front of the Supreme Court build­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

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