A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stood by its most recent abortion precedent. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals, citing the Supreme Court’s adherence to precedent, to invalidate a Louisiana law that required doctors at clinics that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Louisiana’s law is virtually identical to one struck down by the court in 2016, which found that the admitting-privileges law in Texas was medically unnecessary and that it significantly limited access to abortion.
But since then the composition of the court has changed significantly, and abortion opponents had high hopes that the new conservative majority would reverse course. Roberts, who dissented from the 2016 decision, apparently decided, however, that the value of abiding by precedent was more important.
Chief Justice John Roberts is under the microscope as the Supreme Court prepares to issue its first major ruling on abortion rights in the Trump era, which will give the clearest indication yet of the court’s willingness to revisit protections that were first granted in Roe v. Wade.
The tie-breaking vote may rest with Roberts, and the case stands to test his role as the court’s new ideological center as well as his allegiance to past rulings.