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  • Curt Levey

Roberts Disappoints Conservatives Yet Again With Abortion Decision


Washington, D.C. -- The following is a statement of Committee for Justice president Curt Levey on Chief Justice John Roberts' record in the wake of today's Supreme Court decision striking down a Louisiana abortion law:

From a conservative perspective, Chief Justice John Roberts is now zero for four on the major culture war issues decided by the Supreme Court this term—abortion, gun rights, LGBT rights and DACA—after voting today to strike down Louisiana's abortion law in June Medical Services.

As he is wont to do—for example, in the DACA and NY gun cases this term, the census case last term, and his 2012 ObamaCare decision—Roberts took an ostensibly narrow approach today that allows him to play moderate, minimalist, and protector of the Court while actually giving progressives the result they want. In his concurrence today, Roberts pleaded that "I don't want to do this but I have to" (not a quote) with a convenient reliance on stare decisis (precedent).

It is notable that Roberts had not previously shown such inflexible reverence for stare decisis, even in abortion cases. For example, Roberts joined Justice Kennedy's 2007 majority in Gonzales v. Carhart, in which the Court reversed course to uphold a federal ban on partial birth abortion.

Though it's a bitter pill for conservatives to swallow, Roberts has gone full Kennedy or worse. The next few years will tell whether "full Souter" is a better description. At best, Roberts will be a vote up for grabs when culture war and other high-profile issues come before the Court.

Meanwhile, Democrats and the Left are surely breathing a sigh of relief that their fear that replacing Kennedy with Roberts at the center of the Court would move it to the right. The Court we've seen this term is at least a bit to the left of the Court Kennedy sat on. In fact, the Court's extension of employment discrimination protection to the gay and transgender Americans two week ago in Bostock garnered 6 votes, one more than the Court's creation of a constitutional right to gay marriage while Kennedy was on the bench.

If they have any integrity, Senators Schumer and Whitehouse and their Democratic colleagues will cease their rhetoric about a right-wing Supreme Court and stop threatening to pack the Court. If so, that may be the only silver lining in what has so far been a very disappointing Supreme Court term for conservatives.



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