Victory for Abortion Rights Might Be Short-Lived

Analyses point out that John Roberts had a very narrow rationale in Louisiana case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2020 1:55 PM CDT
Big Win for Abortion Opponents? Not So Fast
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.   (Leah Millis/Pool via AP, File)

On the surface, Monday's Supreme Court decision on abortion seems like a major victory for the pro-choice movement, especially with John Roberts siding with the court's four more liberal members. The 5-4 decision struck down a strict Louisiana law regarding doctors' admitting privileges that would have effectively shut down nearly every abortion clinic in the state. But one sentiment emerging in analyses is that Roberts' view on this case is so narrow that the celebration of those who support abortion rights might prove to be fleeting:

  • Roberts sided with the majority but did not join their opinion. He wrote his own emphasizing that he voted the way he did because the court struck down a nearly identical law out of Texas in 2016. He explained that he still thinks that Texas case was "wrongly decided," per the Washington Post, but that the court can't just throw that ruling out the window four years later.

  • Monday ruling is "in many ways a narrow ruling, resting on Roberts’ adherence to the court’s 2016 decision in the Texas case," writes Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog. "With four justices very vocal in their opposition to today’s ruling and a number of challenges to other laws regulating abortion in the pipeline, the legal battle over abortion seems likely to continue into the foreseeable future."
  • At Vox, Ian Millhiser goes further, writing that Roberts gave only a "very brief reprieve" to those who support the right to an abortion. "His opinion is laden with hints that, in a future case, he is likely to vote to restrict—or even eliminate—the constitutional right to an abortion." Notably, Roberts suggested he would welcome a challenge to Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992.
  • The ruling might upset conservative activists in the short term, writes Sam Baker at Axios, but "legal experts from both sides of the ideological divide still expect the court to ultimately chip away at access to abortion and narrow the scope of the precedents that make it legal." States will learn from the losses in Texas and Louisiana and craft laws that can be better defended.
  • Millhiser tweeted a similar sentiment: "Roberts' opinion in June Medical is basically a roadmap for anti-abortion litigators telling them how to win the next case."
  • The AP rounds up reaction from anti-abortion groups, including this from the director of Priests for Life. “Once again this ruling underscores the importance of elections,” says the Rev. Frank Pavone. “We need a solid pro-life majority on the Supreme Court to uphold the rights of women and the unborn.”
(More US Supreme Court stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.