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Pro-Life Advocates Find Silver Lining in Chief Justice Roberts' Opinion on Abortion Case

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Pro-life supporters found a small silver lining in Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to side with the liberal justices on the Supreme Court to strike down a Louisiana abortion law but not join in their legal opinion.

Roberts wrote a concurring opinion in the June Medical Services v. Russo case, in which the justices, in a 5-4 vote, found a state law requiring doctors performing abortions to having admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic to be unconstitutional.

The chief justice sided with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in determining the requirement placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, but he did not just sign on to the opinion written by Breyer.

Roberts cited the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in which the Supreme Court had ruled an almost identical law in Texas was unconstitutional.

June Medical Services v. Russo by The Western Journal on Scribd

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What confused court-watchers was that Roberts had dissented in that case, arguing the Texas law could stay in place.

In his Monday concurring opinion, the chief justice hung his hat on the doctrine of stare decisis

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote. “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.”

Do you agree with the court's decision in the Louisiana case?

However, in a footnote to his opinion, Roberts left the door open that other states may be able to enact laws in which requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges would not place an undue burden on women’s ability to obtain an abortion.

The “validity of admitting privileges law ‘depend[s] on numerous factors that may differ from state to state,'” he wrote.

Pro-life advocates, as well as those supporting abortion rights, recognized the legal significance of Roberts’ words.

“The Court undoubtedly leaves the door open to uphold future health and safety protections. We need bravery on the United States Supreme Court. We need Justices who understand that the most important role of law is to protect human life — all human life,” Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life, agreed with this assessment, telling CNN the ruling will “have to be sorted out by lower courts in the future.”

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Julie Rikelman, the attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued against the Louisiana law before the Supreme Court, conceded that Roberts’ opinion was “obviously concerning for us.”

“Roberts clearly did say that this law is unconstitutional, that it imposes an undue burden to abortion access in Louisiana,” she told CNN, but she added, “What the other parts of the opinion will mean will play out in the coming years. We think the opinion did muddy the waters a bit, and so will lead to more litigation rather than less.”

Pro-life Susan B. Anthony List President Majorie Dannenfelser argued Roberts has also succeeded in motivating those who support the right to life to engage all the more in this November’s election.

She tweeted, “Only Roberts could achieve (albeit inadvertent) what we in the PL movement could not achieve on our own—renewed intensity in Presidential and Senate battlegrounds among ProLife Democratic, Republican and Independent voters.”

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications with the SBA List, added, “We always knew we needed a bigger margin on the court, and whoever wins the election will likely have the opportunity to appoint additional justices.”

She continued, “Making sure it’s President Trump and not Joe Biden is essential.”

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Birthplace
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Graduated dean's list from West Point
Education
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith




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