What's the future of abortion rights after Monday's ruling?

Yolanda Curtis
June 30, 2020

The court struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

The ruling struck down a law passed by Louisiana's legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

The "undue burden" test relied upon in the court's decision is a standard offered by the justices in their 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion, which affirmed a legal right to abortion while allowing states to regulate aspects of abortion practice to protect the lives and health of women. "The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law". "The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a almost identical Texas law, " Roberts wrote.

Abortion-rights advocates contended that the Louisiana law was a veiled attempt to chip away at the legality of abortion in the U.S. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the majority "consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional".

To the extent Kavanaugh took issue with the constitutional test for abortion restrictions, he rejected the use of a balancing test for abortion rights-that is, one that weighs the interests of the woman against the interests of the state.

Roberts focused his opinion nearly exclusively on stare decisis principles-the idea that courts should "stand by things decided" and give "fidelity to precedent".

Chief Justice John Roberts - who, incidentally, voted with the right in the Texas case four years ago - sided with the court's more progressive justices in this case.

The Supreme Court in February on a five-four vote prevented the law from going into effect while litigation over its legality continued.

The legal principle of precedents governing the court's decision-making "requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike", Roberts wrote.

Roberts was a question mark as the case unfurled, though some speculated that an eye on his legacy and discomfort with overtly political moves would prompt him to join the liberals. Many pro-life Republicans were hoping that with the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court would tip the balance in their favor on abortion rulings.

"This inability", the Court adds, "places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion".

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Monday's decision by no means ends the struggle over abortion rights in legislatures and the courts. And he did recognize the burdens that women face in states with restrictive abortion laws.

Chief Justice Roberts' vote was a bit of a surprise because he voted in the Texas case to uphold the clinic restrictions.

Since the decision in the Texas case, President Trump has nominated Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016 before that ruling.

"We have two justices of the Supreme Court - Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, they're great", Trump told supporters at his rally in Tulsa earlier this month.

In that decision, now-retired justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court's four liberals to form a majority.

Other reports by iNewsToday