Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Alone For Now

Stefani Reynolds/CNP/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Chief Justice John Roberts decided that now was not the time for a big decision allowing states to effectively outlaw abortion:

The justices, by a 5-4 vote, said the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital violated a woman’s right to abortion. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with liberals in supporting the outcome.

….Four years ago, the court struck down a nearly identical Texas law on the grounds that it put a heavy burden on women seeking abortions because it had the effect of closing more than half of the state’s clinics that provided abortions….The Louisiana case was seen as a rerun of the Texas case, but with a changed Supreme Court. At issue was whether the justices would adhere to their precedent or cast it aside on the grounds that it interfered with the state’s authority to regulate abortion.

Roberts cited precedent as his reason for rejecting the law. “The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike. The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedent,” he said. Roberts had dissented in the Texas case, voting to uphold the law. But he says he switched his position to honor the precedent.

I can’t say this gives me the warm fuzzies. Obviously it’s a good thing that the Louisiana law was struck down, but Roberts made it clear that he’s just waiting for a chance to declare “special circumstances.” When that happens, goodbye abortion.

However, both of Donald Trump’s appointees voted to overturn precedent, so the evangelical crowd can’t complain that they’re turncoats. All they need is either the right case or else one more conservative justice and their dream of forcing every pregnant woman to carry her blastocyst to term will finally be complete.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: I think Roberts is smarter than the other conservative justices. The others are willing to flatly ignore precedent and do whatever they want, which would launch a tidal wave of opposition and possibly endanger the court. Roberts is craftier. He wants to wait for a time when Roe can be effectively overturned but with an arguably proper decision. I don’t know how much difference that will make in the long run, but it’s almost certainly better for the Supreme Court as an institution.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate