The Supreme Court is preparing to issue its first major decision on abortion rights since Trump has been in office and all eyes are on Chief Justice John Roberts, who may hold the tie breaking vote in this crucial case.
Since this case is the first pertaining to abortion rights in the Trump era, this will be a good indicator of whether or not the court will revisit Roe v. Wade.
It’s a big week in the court and a decision could come early next week. Roberts used his vote last week to become part of the majority to rule to offer civil rights protections to gay and transgender individuals. He also joined the majority vote in blocking Trump and his admin’s plans remove protections for young undocumented immigrants as put forth by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
While his votes on LGBT issues and DACA were encouraging, the Louisiana abortion rights case is different in that it will ask the justices to look at and weigh their own past court rulings in abortion cases.
Roberts is known as an “institutionalist” justice, meaning he is dedicated to upholding past Supreme Court opinions.
The Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will cast a big shadow over the upcoming Louisiana case. In that case, the court in Hellerstedt handed out a 5-3 ruling to take down a Texas law which would require that doctors who performed abortions to be authorized to admit patients to a local hospital. Roberts dissented from the majority in this case based on technical grounds.
The Texas law that was struck down in that Hellerstedt case is almost identical to the Louisiana law that is coming up for ruling.
Roberts’s reputation is on the line and legal analysts say it could suffer if he uses the upcoming case to overturn the 2016 Hellerstedt decision. would suffer if the court uses the Louisiana case to overturn its 2016 decision in Hellerstedt, legal analysts say.
Steven Schwinn, a professor of law at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, “Roberts has as much if not more of an interest than anyone in the public face and integrity of the court… He is acutely aware that if the court were to take dramatic actions in the Louisiana case, like overturning Hellerstedt, it would widely be seen as a sheer political move.”
If the court comes to a different decision over this Louisiana case than it did over the Texas case, it would likely be seen as a general shift toward the right.
Since-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, formerly the court’s swing vote, joined the court’s four liberals to strike down Texas’s admitting-privilege law in the 2016 decision in Hellerstedt.
Trump has worked hard to shift the court to the right since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s former swing vote. He replaced Kennedy with the controversial appointment of the more conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and then added another conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch.
If the court decides to uphold the Louisiana law, it could indicate that the court is willing to restrict abortion rights that came about because of the Roe v. Wade case.
The Louisiana case comes from a challenge to a 2014 law that was passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature that required abortion-performing doctors to hold privileges at local hospitals.
A federal district court said that the Louisiana law was unconstitutional and would “cripple women’s ability to have an abortion in Louisiana.” The court said that the law also provided “no significant health benefits” and unnecessarily burdened doctors .
The district court ruled that the law also hurt the approximately 10,000 women who seek abortions in Louisiana per year.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed that decision and deemed that the law “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”