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Chief Justice John Roberts Stands With Precedence On Abortion Case, Working On His Legacy

June 29, 2020

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Once again this month Supreme Court watchers are left with a story to follow they did not see coming.  Many feared that this court would rule for the Louisana restrictive abortion law that has raised so much controversy.  That sentiment resulted from the fact so much common-sense has been tossed aside over recent years that we are left to conclude sanity and reason are not to be found anytime soon.

But shortly after 9 A.M. on Monday, the nation learned that some new alliances might be forming among the justices.  Reason and enlightened thought might not be as lost in this nation as we feared.

Consider what has happened in just the span of two weeks.  Chief Justice Roberts has placed his name with the court’s liberal wing in three major, vital, and heavily controversial cases.  As noted on my blog–and with great pride and applause–the cases of job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers, along with the moral and humane cases of protecting young immigrants known as Dreamers favored the long arc towards social justice.   We were heartened that new alliances might be forming on the Court.

But abortion has always been the cultural issue that divides as deeply the nation as among the justices.  The Louisiana case carried much-justified concerns for women’s health care advocates.  But with the 5-4 vote which struck down a law that would have left Louisiana law with a single abortion clinic, not only was choice allowed a strong win, but something even more vital to the foundations of this nation was provided a victory.

With this ruling, we have more reason to feel that at least the Supreme Court can still do the national work which is required in these troubling times.  What stands to me as important as the issue at hand is the fact–and do not miss the importance of this fact–but the commitment to precedent prevailed.  Robert’s ruled in this case, based on the fact he understands the value and sanctity of precedence.

“I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health,” he wrote on Monday, “and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today, however, is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” the chief justice wrote. “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

There are times we can truly feel good about something which happens in the nation, and this is one of those moments.  Roberts continues to demonstrate needed respect for precedence, along with not having his court besmirched by the stain of Trump.  Recall his vote on the court concerning the Affordable Care Act, and his refusal to place a citizenship question to the census.  He does not want this court to have a partisan taint and is working already towards his legacy—as all Chief Justices do.

This blog has not agreed with all past rulings from Roberts and certainly will be disappointed in the future.  But as long as there are foundational safeguards that he employs in his work as a justice we can all agree the high court is in good hands.

That is better than we can say about the other branches of our federal government.

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