Pro-Life Ministries React Swiftly to Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court today 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.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined with his four more liberal colleagues in ruling that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates the abortion right the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
In two previous abortion cases, Roberts had favored restrictions.
The Louisiana law is virtually identical to one in Texas that the court struck down in 2016.
“The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law,” Roberts wrote, although he did not join the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals.
In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”
President Donald Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were in dissent, along with Justice Samuel Alito. The presence of the new justices is what fueled hopes among abortion opponents, and fears on the other side, that the Supreme Court would be more likely to uphold restrictions.
Pro-life ministries were quick to express frustration with the decision. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement: “Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment. It demonstrates once again the failure of the Supreme Court to allow the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry. Today’s ruling reinforces just how important Supreme Court judges are to advancing the pro-life cause.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said he was “shocked and deeply disappointed” by the decision. As a Louisiana legislator, Perkins authored the first version of the state law providing state oversight and regulation of abortion clinics. Family Research Council filed an amicus brief in the case.
Katherine Beck Johnson, an attorney and Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council, added: “With its decision today, the Court has destroyed the right of states to provide oversight and regulation of abortion clinics, treating them like every other outpatient surgery center.”
Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life America said this decision overturned a common-sense regulation designed to “prevent another Kermit Gosnell ‘house of horrors from happening.”
Early last year, Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the court to grant that request and keep the law on hold.
Roberts’ vote was a bit of a surprise because he voted in the Texas case to uphold the clinic restrictions. It may have reflected his new role since Kennedy’s retirement as the court’s swing justice, his concern about the court being perceived as a partisan institution and respect for a prior decision of the court, even one he disagreed with. Roberts didn’t write anything explaining his position at the time, but he had never before cast a vote on the side of abortion rights.
The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy.