Roberts Joins Court's Liberals in Striking Down Louisiana Abortion Law

By Susan Jones | June 29, 2020 | 9:35am EDT
 Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once again sides with liberals, this time in an abortion ruling. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once again sides with liberals, this time in an abortion ruling. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to hold active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court's four liberals, who said the Louisiana law unconstitutionally "burdens women" seeking abortion.

In doing so, Roberts pointed to precedent -- a Supreme Court ruling four years ago, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which invalidated a nearly identical Texas law.

"Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike," Roberts wrote in his concurring opinion on Monday. "For that reason, I concur in the judgment of the Court that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional."

But in the case four years ago, Roberts dissented from the majority liberal ruling, the opposite of what he did today.

Roberts admitted this in his concurring opinion: "I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case."

In today's majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: "This case is similar to, nearly identical with, Whole Woman’s Health. And the law must consequently reach a similar conclusion. Act 620 is unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals’ judgment is erroneous.  It is Reversed."

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) reacted on Twitter:

"Today was a big win for abortion providers and a huge loss for the unborn and the Constitution. The Constitution contains no right to abortion and this Court’s highly selective use of stare decisis defies logic and reason," he wrote.

Conservative groups also expressed deep disappointment in today's ruling:

"For too long, abortionists have flouted the law and derided health standards for women seeking abortion," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement.

"As a Louisiana legislator, I authored one of the first abortion clinic regulations in the country to stop abortion clinics from operating in filthy, disgusting, unregulated conditions. Unfortunately, in Louisiana and elsewhere these facilities have shown minimal concern for the well-being of women as many continued performing abortions in marginal conditions that put lives at risk as they falsify records to cover up their malpractice.

"With this decision, the Supreme Court has prevented Louisiana from enforcing the law to stop abortionists who regularly deride and violate health standards for women seeking abortion."

Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino said the liberal justices, including Chief Justice Roberts, "once again appointed themselves members of our nation's de facto medical board. These five decided today that they would rather be doctors than judges."

Severino said the Louisiana law "was a common sense regulation mean to protect women and avoid Kermit Gosnell nightmares."

Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner issued a statement, saying: "Women seeking abortions have the same right to competent and quality care as patients involved in other surgical procedures. Louisiana’s admitting privileges law protected that right. Louisiana abortion providers went to extraordinary lengths to erase a law that state legislators enacted overwhelmingly, in bi-partisan fashion, to promote the wellbeing of women."

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