The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that individuals who perform abortions at clinics have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital is unconstitutional, as it places an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
The court ruled 5-4 in the case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, with Chief Justice John Roberts once again casting a deciding vote by siding with the court’s liberal justices.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, noted that the Louisiana law is “almost word-for-word identical” to a Texas law the court ruled was unconstitutional in 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. A District Court had rejected the Louisiana law because of that precedent, but a court of appeals ruled otherwise.
“We have examined the extensive record carefully and conclude that it supports the District Court’s findings of fact,” Breyer wrote. “Those findings mirror those made in Whole Woman’s Health in every relevant respect and require the same result. We consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional.”
Breyer noted that the District Court found that the law “offers no significant health benefit” and that “conditions on admitting privileges common to hospitals throughout the State have made and will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the State’s asserted interests in promoting women’s health and safety”
Roberts had dissented in the 2016 case, but ruled with the majority on Monday because he was following court precedent.
“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote in a concurring opinion. “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.”
In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”
This is just the latest closely watched court case where Roberts has cast a critical vote, and angered conservatives.
The court recently ruled, in a 5-4 decision penned by Roberts, that President Trump’s reversal of former President Barack Obama’s executive order – that shielded immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation – was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which sets out rulemaking procedures for federal agencies.
It was Roberts who, by siding with the liberal wing and reinterpreting an individual mandate as a tax, allowed ObamaCare to be found constitutional in 2012. Last year, he joined with the wing again in shutting down Trump’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census.
Fox News’ Bill Mears and Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.