Abortion: How John Roberts Left the Door Open to More State Boundaries


Supporters of abortion rights were elated that access would continue to be available in Louisiana, and opponents of abortion were disappointed. But everyone agrees that Roberts's language will have important implications for the future.

"This was a great victory for the Louisiana clinic, or at least a great defeat averted, but the opinion of the Chief Justice is a chilling signal for the future of abortion rights," said the Supreme Court expert and partner of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP Joshua Matz.

While Roberts sided with all four court liberals to overturn Louisiana law, in a concurring opinion, the chief justice left open the possibility that other states could pursue similar restrictions.

The "validity of the admission privilege law depends on numerous factors that may differ from state to state," Roberts wrote in a footnote.

In Louisiana, for example, those who defy the law claimed that it could essentially end access to abortions in the state.

Matz pointed to prominent lines in Roberts' opinion that trace back precedents on how courts should analyze the benefits and burdens of a particular law.

Roberts wrote: "There is no plausible sense in which someone, much less this Court, can objectively assign weight to those imponderable values."

Matz added: "Even if the law does not achieve any important purpose, and even if it causes real harm, the only question Roberts would ask is whether it creates a 'substantial obstacle' to exercising the right to abortion."

Robert's opinion was "obviously troubling to us," said Julie Rikelman, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued against the law in court.

John Roberts breaks expectations for the Supreme Court

"Roberts clearly stated that this law is unconstitutional, that it imposes an undue burden on access to abortion in Louisiana," Rikelman emphasized, before adding his concern.

"What the other parts of the opinion will mean will develop in the coming years," he said. "We think the opinion has made the waters a little messy, so it will lead to more litigation rather than less."

Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana, and plaintiff in the case, also said the impact of Roberts' language would be felt another day.

Pittman described an air of "utter dizziness" among clinic staff on the news as he tried to stay content enough to care for patients.

"The law struck down by the Supreme Court is just one of" recently passed state laws to restrict abortion, he told reporters Monday. "This week, we are winning the battle, and that means we can stay open to fight another day. But as a provider, I will tell you: I am celebrating today, but I am still concerned about our future."

James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life anti-abortion group, said Roberts' ruling "will have to be resolved by lower courts in the future."

"You can read it, you know, half a dozen different ways," he said. "So it's like throwing a bunch of confetti, who knows what it means."

Abortion laws in the future

READ: Supreme Court opinion blocks controversial abortion law

If lower courts interpret future cases in light of Roberts' opinion that traces the precedent, "that means that many more regulations on abortion will be upheld," Bopp said. "Now, if they think that it is the majority decision that (applies) … then it will be more difficult."

The majority opinion was written by liberal judge Stephen Breyer.

On the ground, the Chief Justice's choice of analysis could have a variety of implications for pending and future decisions on abortion cases, and even future constraints that states seek to advance.

While he did not believe the decision would lead the court to consider the so-called ban on heartbeat, Rikelman called abortion restrictions Louisiana law "as dangerous" as statewide abortion prohibitions.

The court that doubled its opposition to the standard set by Texas law was also significant because of the large number of abortion rights cases pending to reach the superior court, said Elizabeth Nash, the manager of state affairs at the Guttmacher Institute, a group of reproductive health experts.

"When you see something coming from the court that opens a door, that's troubling," he said, noting that the perceived impacts of Roberts' decision would vary from side to side of the fight against abortion.

Judge Clarence Thomas says Roe's decision has not been crushed from constitutional support

"If you want to protect abortion rights and access, this is a great victory and it really confirms the need to use evidence to determine the constitutionality of the restrictions," added Nash. Those who oppose the right to abortion, he added, may see this as a moment to "go back to the drawing board, you know, and see how to reevaluate your strategy."

& # 39; Roberts is completely ruled out & # 39;

Anti-abortion advocates seemed to view Roberts's opinion as evidence that he was against their cause, but it was not a real deterrent to further enforce such legislation.

"Roberts is completely out of the question," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List and national co-chair of the Trump Voices for Life Coalition. He added that anti-abortion advocates would take "a close read of their decision to see where the openings are" and were "pushing to make sure we don't have another Roberts time."

While she did not see Roberts's view as susceptible to such laws, even when it was presented differently, "I would be delighted if that were the case," Dannenfelser said. "And there are lawmakers across the country who will say, 'You know,' brighten my day, we'll still do it anyway. '"

Samuel Alito disagrees. A frustrating few months for conservative justice.

At the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized the ruling as "unfortunate" and targeted all five judges for the majority.

"Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected judges intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own pro-abortion political preferences to override legitimate abortion safety standards," McEnany said in a statement. .

Bopp criticized Roberts' alleged support for the court precedent for confirming the final decision of the Texas law, but not the analysis used by the court at the time.

"He apparently believes that politically, what is best for the court, regardless of the law and the Constitution, is that the court be seen as implementing the most extreme positions of Roe v. Wade," Bopp said. "And that's what he did."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here