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Spotlight returns to Roberts on abortion



Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed conservatives Thursday by the court's liberal wing to block a Louisiana abortion law that's almost identical to the Texas one he voted to uphold in 2016.

Roberts has become the fulcrum of the high court since swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in July, catapulting him to the spotlight as the deciding justice on hot button social issues

With Thursday's decision on the Louisiana law, which requires abortion providers to have admission to a nearby hospital, Roberts has raised concerns among some of the most conservative majority after President Trump Donald John TrumpWhite House begins search for person who leaked president's schedule: report O'Rourke to headline counter-trump rally at border Trump touts Kim summit: North Korea will become economic 'rocket' MORE 's successful appointments of Justices No l gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh Brett Michael Kavanaugh Virginia scandals pit democrats against themselves and their message Demonstrations for investigation of Fairfax over assault allegations Kellyanne Conway: "I was assaulted at a restaurant" by an 'unhinged' woman MORE .

"It does give me a little break," said Travis Weber, vice president of policy at the Family Research Council, who questioned if Roberts's vote for staying the abortion law was influenced by the politics of the debate.

"I do think at times the justices and other federal judges will factor that into their decisions and they shouldn't," he said. "They should decide the cases according to the law."

He noted that Roberts also sided with the court's liberal wing in 2012 to uphold ObamaCare, but overall Weber said he is not too worried about the chief justice striking down Louisiana's Unsafe

"It's slight concern, but I'm reserving judgment," he said.

Thursday's ruling follows the court's decision in December to pass on hearing two trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Justice Clarence Thomas said in a dissent that Kavanaugh and Roberts sided with the court's liberal justices because they didn't want to touch the politically complicated issue.

"Last night's dissent from Justice Kavanaugh suggests he got that message loud and clear and is Willing to stand and be counted on these cases, "Steven Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel for Americans United for Life, said on Friday. “Kavanaugh was willing to stand up and be counted in the way the chief justice was not.” Kavanaugh, the court's newest member, issued a dissenting opinion on his own behalf on Thursday, arguing that he would have denied the stay without prejudice. because the law has no effect yet. He noted there is a 45-day transition period in which physicians can obtain admission privileges. If they fail, he said, a new challenge can be brought in.

Roberts and those with no explanation for their vote.

“Whether he was not willing to go on the record on this case because he was ducking the issue or simply being diplomatic is an open question, ”Aden said.

He acknowledged that Roberts, as chief justice, may have wanted to avoid tipping his hand on how he might rule on the merits of the case in the future Roberts was nominated to the court in 2005 by former President George W. Bush to replace the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He was confirmed by the Senate in 77-28 votes, and had high hopes that Roberts would consistently vote to impose stricter rules on abortion.

Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and president of the anti-abortion group Texas Values, said It's too early to draw any critical conclusions from Thursday's how Roberts might ultimately rule on the case and others related to abortion.

"This is still a preliminary decision," he said. “There could be a variety of reasons why the chief ruled this way. There is some suggestion he wants there to be an opportunity for briefing and a full hearing before he makes a decision. ”Saenz argued the law would have been implemented at least 45 days even if the stay had been denied. 19659002] "One could argue the ruling practically for now is irrelevant," he said. "I would caution people from jumping to any conclusion in terms of criticism of the chief justice, but we'll wait and see."

Lawyers for liberal groups said Thursday's more about procedure than it was about Roberts. ] "We should consider this as the only minimum of saying lower courts have to follow the Supreme Court precedent," said Sam Berger, vice president of democracy and government reform at the Center for American Progress.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Louisiana law, despite the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling in Whole Woman's Health by Hellerstedt, in which a short-handed court struck down and identical Texas law with a 5-3 ruling. Roberts was in the minority then.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, said it would be a tremendous mark against the Supreme Court if it were to overturn a major constitutional ruling from three years.

The Louisiana case is not the only abortion case before the court.

The Louisiana case is not the only abortion case before the court. Dalven said justices have three petitions for review pending – one challenge for abortion in Alabama and two challenging restrictions on abortion in Indiana

Gregory Lipper, a partner at the law firm Clinton & Peed in DC, said Roberts on Thursday was merely

"I would not read the stay any further," Lipper said. “I don't think this means John Roberts is evolving on abortion rights.”

He added that "there is a good chance" the court will "overrule the Whole Woman's health decision and uphold the law" if it takes up the case .


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