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Supreme Court Chief Justice Joins Liberal Minority In Upholding Abortion Rights

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court Photo Credit: Pixabay

For the first time since President Trump’s new appointees took their seats, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pro-abortion decision on Monday.

Chief Justice John Roberts, placing precedent over all else, joined the court's four minority liberals in striking down a Louisiana law that would have required doctors at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges.

The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which never went into effect, required abortion doctors in the state to have admitting the privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinics where they worked.

The law was similar to one out of Texas that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

Roberts originally opposed the view in 2016 that admitting privileges are medically unnecessary and significantly limit access to abortion because hospitals, for the most part, don’t give abortion doctors who work at clinics admitting privileges for political and safety reasons.

Roberts said he still feels the same but considers precedent more important.

The Louisiana law "would place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking an abortion" in the state while offering "no significant health-related benefits,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the plurality.

The law violates the U.S. Constitution because it “imposes an ‘undue burden’ on a woman's right to choose to have an abortion," Breyer added.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that the nation’s abortion precedents “are grievously wrong and should be overruled."

Pro-lifers who thought the court’s new conservative majority would take a different stance this time were disappointed. 

How or whether the decision affects this fall’s election – and the future of Roe v. Wade -- remains to be seen.

The president’s vow to name conservatives to the nation’s highest court held sway with some voters, polls showed. At the same time, polls showed a large majority of the public approving the right to abortion.

The Trump administration supported the Louisiana law at the same time that the federal government eliminated the admitting privileges requirement for doctors who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds that of a federal district court judge in Louisiana who said that the law would have left the state with only one clinic and one doctor for abortions.

An estimated 10,000 women a year seek abortions in Louisiana, the judge noted.

Abortions are safe procedures, the district court judge added, and in those "extremely rare" cases when complications result, hospital staff routinely treat those patients.

Over 23 years, the federal judge found, only four patients had to be transferred to a hospital because of a complications at a clinic in Shreveport.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district judge’s ruling and reinstated the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court then temporarily suspended the measure last year while it conducted a review that led to Monday’s vote.

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