The law of Louisiana is virtually identical to that of Texas that the court has annulled in 2016.
But Roberts, who was dissenting in that case in Texas, did not join the opinion written by justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals in Monday’s decision, and his position has left the defenders of abortion rights more relieved than thrilled.
The chief justice explained that he continues to think that the case in Texas was badly cut, but believes that it is important that the tribunal held in its previous decisions.
“The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago that invalidated a statute of Texas almost identical,” wrote Roberts.
In dissent, justice Clarence Thomas wrote: “today, the majority of the judges perpetuate their jurisprudence is not based on abortion by prohibiting a State law is a perfectly legitimate and without jurisdiction “.
The two judges appointed by the u.s. president Donald Trump, the judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were dissenters, as justice Samuel Alito. The presence of the new judges is what has fueled the hopes among opponents of abortion and the fears of the other side, that the supreme Court is more likely to maintain restrictions.
Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that Monday’s decision did not end the fight for abortion rights in the legislatures and the courts.
“We are relieved that the law of Louisiana has been blocked today, but we are worried for tomorrow. With this victory, the clinics of Louisiana can remain open to serve the million of women of child-bearing age in the State. But the court’s decision could encourage States to adopt laws even more restrictive when clarity is necessary if the rights to abortion must be protected, ” said Northup.
A judge of first instance had declared that the law would not provide health benefits to women and leave only one clinic open in Louisiana, in New Orleans. This would make it too difficult for women to get an abortion, in violation of the Constitution, ruled the judge.
But the court of appeal in New Orleans rejected the judge’s findings and upheld the law in 2018, doubting that all clinics should be closed and saying that the doctors had not done enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.
The clinics filed an emergency appeal to the supreme Court, asking that the law be blocked while the judges were considering the case.
At the beginning of last year, Roberts joined the four liberal members of the court to grant this request and keep the act in abeyance.
The vote of Roberts has been a bit of a surprise, since he voted in the Texas case to maintain the restrictions of the clinic. This may have reflected its new role since the retirement of Kennedy as a judge swing of the court, his concern about the court being perceived as an institution that is partisan and respect of a previous decision of the court, the same with which he did not agree. Roberts wrote nothing explaining his position at the time, but he had never previously voted in favor of abortion rights.
The rules in question in Louisiana is distinct from other laws of the Member who is the subject of court challenges that would prohibit abortions in early pregnancy.