The New York Times reports on the high-drama ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday temporarily blocking a highly restrictive anti-abortion law in Louisiana from going into effect, and revealing in this 5-4 decision the grave danger abortion rights are presently in–despite a persistent unwillingness by reporters locally and nationally to acknowledge this reality:
The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say could have left the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. That coalition underscored the pivotal position the chief justice has assumed after the departure last year of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who used to hold the crucial vote in many closely divided cases, including ones concerning abortion…
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have denied the stay. Only Justice Kavanaugh published a dissent, taking a middle position that acknowledged the key precedent and said he would have preferred more information on the precise effect of the law.
The Louisiana law in question is what’s known in the reproductive rights community as a TRAP law–“targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” meaning regulations intended to reduce the availability of abortions with no clinically proven benefit. This particular law is a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which is medically unnecessary and would only serve to severely reduce the number of eligible abortion providers.
The narrow and temporary blocking of this bill from taking effect is thanks to a swing vote from Chief Justice John Roberts, who once again took surprising action to avert what could have kicked off the long-awaited final assault on the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights throughout the United States. This apparently represents a swing from Roberts’ vote on a previous similar case, underscoring his self-appointed role as a moderator on a sharply divided court. With that said, the Court is still expected to hear this case in the fall, and numerous other state-level bills intended specifically to challenge Roe are in the judicial pipeline.
Despite this temporary win for pro-choice advocates, it’s clear that abortion rights are today in greater actual peril than at any point since the Roe decision in 1973. Especially if conservatives get another Justice before President Donald Trump leaves office but even with the Court as it sits today, the likelihood of Roe being thrown out is very high. Trump’s two appointed Justices, both of whom were confirmed with Sen. Cory Gardner’s support and one of which was stolen from Democrats in an unprecedented act of Senate treachery, showed in this trial balloon vote that they are ready to do it. Remember that next time anyone tells you that Gardner “would pose no threat to abortion rights.”
The moral of the story? Even here in Colorado where the voters have demonstrated their support for reproductive choice over and over at the polls, we’re only one election away from passing the same legislation that was blocked yesterday–legislation we see introduced in the Colorado legislature year after year. For reasons we’ve never really understood, local political reporters have been openly contemptuous about covering Republican anti-abortion bills in the Colorado General Assembly in recent years.
That complacency really, really needs to stop. “Token” GOP abortion bills in Colorado are not theater.
They are a warning.