A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stood by its most recent abortion precedent. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals, citing the Supreme Court’s adherence to precedent, to invalidate a Louisiana law that required doctors at clinics that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Louisiana’s law is virtually identical to one struck down by the court in 2016, which found that the admitting-privileges law in Texas was medically unnecessary and that it significantly limited access to abortion.
But since then the composition of the court has changed significantly, and abortion opponents had high hopes that the new conservative majority would reverse course. Roberts, who dissented from the 2016 decision, apparently decided, however, that the value of abiding by precedent was more important.
In his concurring opinion, Roberts wrote that “The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike. The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons.”
Writing for the plurality, Justice Stephen Breyer said the Louisiana law “would place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking an abortion” in the state, that it offers “no significant health-related benefits” and that the law “consequently imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion,” and therefore violates the Constitution.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that, “Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled,” and that the high court has “neither jurisdiction nor constitutional authority to declare Louisiana’s duly enacted law unconstitutional….”
The above comes from a June 29 story on NPR.