Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has once again defied expectations of conservatives and President Donald Trump, blocking a controversial Louisiana law on abortion restrictions Monday morning.
This is the first major abortion case ruling from the Supreme Court during the Trump presidency.
Anti-abortion protesters are seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, on June 29, 2020. Admitting privileges can be hard for abortion providers to obtain as hospitals do not want to be associated with them due to the stigma and as abortion is a statistically safe procedure, requiring extremely limited numbers of patients to have to go to hospitals for care.
In an ironic turn, Roberts concurred with the Louisiana decision due to the precedent established by the Texas decision - which he dissented from. "Those findings mirror those made in Whole Woman's Health in every relevant respect and require the same result".
"The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike", he wrote. "Therefore, Louisiana's law can not stand under our precedents", Roberts added.
Roberts made clear, though, that he was not tying his decision to any political preference.
"This case is similar to, almost identical with, Whole Woman's Health". A year ago, some even suggested that Roberts may strike down 1973's Roe v. Wade. 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.
He also argued that overruling precedent should be considered when a case is an "outlier".
"Trap" laws, or "targeted regulation of abortion providers", are measures often passed under the guise of safety, but provide little or no medical benefits for women. The state in this case, at one point, argued that doctors do not have the standing necessary to bring the cases, saying that their interests do not align with the patients'.
"This inability", the Court adds, "places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion". Many court-watchers believe what had changed was not the law - but the court itself.
Justice Alito also focused on standing in his stinging dissent, saying that "The idea that a regulated party can invoke the right of a third party for the objective of attacking legislation enacted to protect the third party is stunning".
Physicians for reproductive health, a national advocacy organization, said: "This is great news and affirms what we know to be true. medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care are unlawful and unsafe".
The decision means that the three abortion clinics Louisiana has can continue to operate. Justice Anthony Kennedy represented the swing vote on abortion in the 2016 case, then siding with the liberal-leaning justices.
The court recently ruled, in a 5-4 decision penned by Roberts, that President Trump's reversal of former President Barack Obama's executive order - that shielded immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation - was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which sets out rulemaking procedures for federal agencies.