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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chief Justice John Roberts — a Catholic — cast the deciding vote in the High Court's first major abortion ruling of the Trump era.
Roberts sided with four liberal justices Monday in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo, allowing the U.S. Supreme Court to nullify Louisiana's abortionist admitting-privilege law. Concurring with the liberal majority, Roberts wrote that the status quo must be preserved.
"The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike," Roberts penned. "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 precedents."
Louisiana's law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to operate. It mirrored a Texas law that in 2016 was challenged before the High Court in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. Roberts claims the Texas case, in which the High Court sided with abortionists, established a status quo to which the court must cling.
But while the Supreme Court struck down the Texas law in 2016, Roberts was part of the bloc of conservative justices who voted in favor of upholding the Texas pro-life law. All eyes were, therefore, on him to see if he'd similarly vote to uphold the Louisiana law, but he did not.
Instead, Roberts wrote his own opinion that concurred with the majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer's opinion, joined by the three female justices, predictably ruled that Louisiana's admitting-privilege law placed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
Referencing the High Court's 2016 ruling that invalidated the Texas pro-life law, Breyer began, "We held that 'unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right' and are, therefore, 'constitutionally invalid.'"
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, lamented the Supreme Court's ruling. In his statement issued on Monday, Perkins emphasized that abortionists have been allowed to operate in substandard health conditions. He expressed his dismay that the High Court has prevented the states from protecting women's health.
"This case was about whether the state has the right to ensure that abortionists who take women's money also provide for their safety," explained Perkins. "However, I do look forward to the day when the Supreme Court will correct the gross injustice of the Roe v. Wade decision that has led to the killing of tens of millions of unborn babies."
Perkins noted that as a legislator in Louisiana, his concern was for women's health, which has continually been put at risk by abortionists:
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.
He says the High Court ruling keeps states from protecting the health of their own female residents.
"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," concluded Perkins.
Justice Clarence Thomas agrees. In his dissenting opinion, Thomas chastised the Supreme Court ruling for using so-called abortion rights to strip legitimate power from states.
"Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded, abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction," stated Thomas.
Justice Neil Gorsuch similarly asserted in his dissenting opinion that a bias towards abortion is blinding Supreme Court justices.
"The real question we face," wrote Gorsuch, "concerns our willingness to follow the traditional constraints of the judicial process when a case touching on abortion enters the courtroom."