Abortion case shows Roberts firmly at Supreme Court’s center

Abortion case shows Roberts firmly at Supreme Court’s center

The justices said by a 5-4 vote late Thursday that they will not allow Louisiana to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously redefined the Obamacare mandate as a tax to justify it constitutionally, has sided with the court's liberals in an abortion-related case.

"Remember, in the Hellerstedt case, Roberts joined with the other conservative justices to say that such regulations are totally within bounds, even under the Roe and Casey precedent of a right to an abortion". But the 5th Circuit reversed the ruling and upheld the law.

So much of what the court has done in recent weeks has been through emergency appeals, cases that call for temporary, yet often revealing, votes. The entire state of Louisiana has just three abortion clinics. Similarly, the 5th Circuit acknowledged that it did not have any evidence that the Louisiana admitting-privileges requirement would help the health or safety of any women, even though it created a burden on providers and their patients.

It allows abortion-rights proponents time to bring an appeal to a newly constituted conservative court majority that may nonetheless be willing to reverse course dramatically on the subject of abortion.

Much is being made of the most recently confirmed justice, Brett Kavanaugh, voting with the minority and writing his own dissent. "If a law does not amount to an unconstitutional burden unless it does something as dramatic as close 20 clinics in a geographic area as large as Texas, nearly every law would be constitutional". His vote Thursday was not a vote for abortion rights as much it was a message to the lower courts to "knock that shit off" in trying to unilaterally undercut Supreme Court precedent by ignoring Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt and not going through the proper channels. The Court's majority voted to stay enforcement of Louisiana's law pending anticipated further litigation.

"The most astounding aspect of Kavanaugh's dissent is its credulous belief in Louisiana's ostensible benevolence toward abortion clinics", Stern wrote.

"At this point", she concludes ominously, "the question is how long will Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stand between those four justices and an open season on Roe v. Wade, the rule of law and respect for precedent". "The court should not prevent state legislators from doing the job they were elected by their constituents to do".

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The stay will remain in place until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear the case challenging the Louisiana law on its merits.

"The supreme court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women", said Nancy Northup, the CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights.

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

At the same time, the threat to women's reproductive rights has pushed some liberal states to expand rights to abortion.

Judge Patrick Higginbotham, a Reagan appointee like Smith, dissented, accusing his colleague of failing to "meaningfully apply" the Supreme Court's prior rulings on abortion. But it has never gone into effect. But it was decided by an eight-member Supreme Court in the wake of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

Kavanaugh argues that since the Louisiana law has a 45-day grace period, then if doctors who perform abortions could get admitting privileges at a hospital then there was no "undue burden" on women. The abortion industry now will ask the Supreme Court for a full review.

Kavanaugh's dissent deferred to the precedent of the case in which the restrictive Texas law was overturned in 2016.

If the court does not accept the case, the injunction ends and the state law would go into effect. Current cases are asking courts to recognize the unborn as persons.

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