The U.S. Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John Roberts made history Monday when he cast his vote to block a Louisiana abortion law that would have virtually ended abortion access for women in that state.
Roberts voted with the four “liberal” justices to create the 5-4 victory needed to stop Louisiana going forward. Roberts notably supported those same four justices for the third time in weeks. He had recently joined hands with them to block the firing of gay and transgender Americans because of their sexual preferences and, in another decision, he upheld the DACA regulations protecting the immigrant children we call “dreamers.”
The conservative Roberts is saying — in voting against the Louisiana law — that the question raised in this kind of severe regulation of a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion had already “been asked and answered” by the court in its 2016 decision to strike down a proposed Texas law. The justices rejected that proposed law’s restrictions described as, “beyond rational belief,” including the demand for unique hospital privileges as well as singularly imposing (and unnecessary) architectural and spatial requirements for the abortion facilities.
In that Texas decision of June 2, 2016, Roberts saw the legal and ethical standard “stare decisis” (already decided) that could not be ignored. He references that same precedent for Louisiana.
From the moment the news of Roberts’ decision was reported, the media was asking the question, “What has happened to the conservative John Roberts?” Reporters were acting as if the chief justice needed an excuse to vote objectively. He participated in previous examinations of similar questions in the Texas case. He voted against the majority then. But in casting his nay vote, and penning the Louisiana decision, Roberts becomes one more brilliant attorney exercising (on behalf of those American citizens he represents) the right to move forward respecting history, once the question before the court has, certainly been, “Asked and Answered!”
Most importantly, Justice Roberts showed America this week — and in the last few weeks on the sexual preference protection and DACA votes — that he takes his oath as the country’s top judge seriously. He respects the Constitution and the strongly debated and seriously decided precedents of former justices as standards that may outweigh his personal and political preferences.
For that wisdom, objectivity and sincere commitment to justice in its purest form, Chief Justice Roberts deserves the respect of the millions of American women protected by his decision today, as well as the respect and gratitude of all those who love those women.
The pro-choice American majority sincerely hopes that Justice Roberts’ objectivity will hold and even grow stronger if and when constantly threatened legal challenges to Roe v. Wade may occur.
Under Roe, obtuse questions and attacks on abortion rights in America have failed for nearly a half-century. Pro-choice America hopes Justice Roberts, and the court he oversees will continue to support the case that such punitive questions — labeled accurately as “ beyond rational belief” in the 2016 Texas landmark case — have surely been “asked and answered” beyond justification.