The U.S. Supreme Court surprised the country again with another progressive decision on Monday, when it ruled that Louisiana’s tough restriction on abortions violates the Constitution.
As reported by NBC News, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four more liberal justices in a 5-4 decision, and struck down a law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services “to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.”
Enforcement of the legislation had been blocked by a legal battle led by two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic who sued the state government to overturn the law, arguing that, if enforced, it would leave only one doctor in a single clinic to provide services to nearly 10,000 women seeking abortions in the state each year.
In his decision, Roberts said the Louisiana law could not be upheld given the court’s decision to overturn a similar Texas law in 2016.
“The legal doctrine of state decision requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote in concurring with the decision. “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.”
As CNN explained, Roberts’ vote was “all the more striking” because he dissented in the Texas case, arguing that he continues to “believe that the [Texas] case was wrongly decided.”
Roberts has also surprised again those who believed that the mostly conservative court would be inclined in its recent decisions to favor the tone of the White House, especially after having supported the liberal wing in two other previous rulings that included protections for the LGBTQ+ community and for undocumented youth who came to the country as children, also called Dreamers.
In response to its latest decision, the White House issued a statement criticizing what it called an “unfortunate ruling.”
Trump’s nominees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, dissented from Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s majority decision. Each of the court’s four most consistent conservatives wrote separately to describe their disagreement.
“Today a majority of the court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas. “As is often the case with legal challenges to abortion regulations, this suit was brought by abortionists and abortion clinics. Their sole claim before this Court is that Louisiana’s law violates the purported substantive due process right of a woman to abort her unborn child.”