Roberts May Cast Deciding Vote in First Major Abortion Case of Trump Era

March 4, 2020 by Dan McCue
Abortion rights advocates demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building. March 4, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — All eyes were on Chief Justice John Roberts Wednesday as the Supreme Court appeared to be sharply divided over issues raised during the first major abortion case of the Trump presidency.

The case out of Louisiana could test whether a high court that has grown more conservative with the additions of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, may be more willing than past courts to roll back abortion rights.

At issue is a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

A federal judge found that just one of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics would remain open if the law is allowed to take effect.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the law, paving the way for Wednesday’s hearing.

As the case unfolded, hundreds of abortion-rights protestors demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building, while a smaller group of anti-abortion demonstrators stood just feet away, trying to drown them out.

Taking the lead among her liberal colleagues on the court, Justice Elena Kagan suggested that the admitting privileges requirement might be wholly unnecessary.

She noted that in the 23 years the Shreveport, Louisiana clinic at the center of the case has provided abortion services, it had transferred only four patients out of 70,000 to a nearby hospital.

“I don’t know a medical procedure where it’s lower than that,” Kagan said.

Julie Rikelman, the Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer who argued the case on behalf of the clinic, said a trial judge found that abortions in Louisiana are safe and that the law provided no health benefits to women, just as the Supreme Court ruled in an earlier Texas case.

“This case is about respect for the court’s precedent,” Rikelman said.

One of the questions raised by the current case is whether the court will ultimately overrule the 2016 decision to which Rikelman referred. That case also involved a requirement that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have joined the court since that decision was handed down.

When the justices temporarily blocked the Louisiana law from taking effect a year ago, Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices to put it on hold. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were among the four conservatives who would have allowed the law to take effect.

Though preliminary votes do not bind the justices when they undertake a thorough review of an issue, they often signal how a case will come out.

That means Roberts almost certainly will be the deciding vote in this case.

On Wednesday, Roberts did not say much, and didn’t indicate, one way or another, which way he’ll go.

In more than 14 years as chief justice, Roberts has generally voted to uphold abortion restrictions, including in the Texas case four years ago.

The court is expected to render its decision on the case in late June.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
2020 Elections
Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Thursday blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would... Read More

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Release of Full Mueller Report
Supreme Court
Supreme Court to Hear Case on Release of Full Mueller Report
July 2, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it would decide whether Congress may see currently redacted parts of the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. As is their custom, the justices did not... Read More

High Court Strikes Down Ban on Taxpayer Funding for Religious Schools
Education
High Court Strikes Down Ban on Taxpayer Funding for Religious Schools
June 30, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court struck down a ban on taxpayer funding for religious schools on Tuesday, saying such institutions can't be prevented from participating in programs that use public funds to support private education. The 5-4 ruling upheld a Montana scholarship program that allows state... Read More

Justices Hold Booking.com Can Trademark Its Name
Business
Justices Hold Booking.com Can Trademark Its Name
June 30, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON — A nearly unanimous Supreme Court said Tuesday that the travel website Booking.com can trademark its name, a ruling of high significance to other companies using a generic word followed by ".com." as a name. Lower courts had sided with Booking.com, but the Trump administration... Read More

Supreme Court Affirms Trump's Right to Say 'You're Fired' to Consumer Regulator
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Affirms Trump's Right to Say 'You're Fired' to Consumer Regulator
June 29, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed President Donald Trump's ability to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Monday, but left undisturbed the rest of the statute that created the agency in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. Writing for the... Read More

Supreme Court Upholds Prostitution Pledge for AIDS Funding
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Upholds Prostitution Pledge for AIDS Funding
June 29, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court upheld a provision of federal law Monday that requires foreign affiliates of U.S.-based health organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition of receiving taxpayer money to fight AIDS around the world.  Writing for the majority in the 5-3 ruling, Justice Brett... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top