Why conservative Chief Justice Roberts just struck down an anti-abortion law – By Ian Millhiser (VOX) / June 29 2020
Roberts didn’t save abortion rights, he told future litigants how to bury them.
The Supreme Court just delivered the narrowest, most temporary victory for abortion rights. Though Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative who votes fairly consistently to uphold abortion restrictions, cast the key fifth vote to strike down a Louisiana anti-abortion law, his opinion makes it clear that his views about abortion haven’t changed.
The best reading of the Court’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo is that Roberts just gave the constitutional right to an abortion a potentially very brief reprieve. And he did so largely because Louisiana presented the weakest possible case in June Medical.
As Justice Stephen Breyer notes in his plurality opinion, June Medical involves a Louisiana law that is “almost word-for-word identical” to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down four years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). Both laws require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital near the clinic where they perform abortions in order to continue to provide them — a credential that is very difficult for abortion providers to obtain and that does little or nothing to improve health outcomes.
The Court voted 4-1-4, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing a plurality opinion for himself and his three liberal colleagues, and Roberts writing a separate opinion emphasizing the narrowness of his approach to this case.
Only one thing has changed between June Medical and Whole Woman’s Health. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a relatively moderate conservative who cast the key fifth vote to strike down the Texas law, is no longer on the Court. And his replacement, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, opposes abortion rights. Kavanaugh dissented in June Medical.