Why John Roberts Joined the Supreme Court's Democratic Appointees in an Abortion Case

Roberts dissented in 2016 when SCOTUS struck down an abortion law. What changed this time around?


In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Supreme Court invalidated a Texas law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. According to Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion, that regulation served no legitimate health or safety purpose and placed "a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion," thus creating an unconstitutional "undue burden on abortion access." Among the dissenters in Whole Woman's Health was Chief Justice John Roberts. He would have let the abortion regulation stand.

Today the Supreme Court decided a nearly identical case—June Medical Services v. Russo—on nearly identical legal grounds. At issue was a Louisiana law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Once again, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion. The "substantial obstacle" to abortion access that the Louisiana law creates, he argued, "and the absence of any health-related benefit" render the law unconstitutional.

There was one notable difference between the two abortion rulings. This time around, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the Court's Democratic appointees and voted to strike down the state regulation. What changed?

"I joined the dissent in Whole Woman's Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided," Roberts wrote in a lone concurrence. "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."

For the chief justice, that question was answered by the legal doctrine of stare decisis, a Latin phrase meaning "to stand by things decided."

"Stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike," Roberts wrote. "The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana's law cannot stand under our precedents."

Writing in dissent, Justice Neil Gorsuch made the case for a different judicial role, arguing that the law should have been upheld under "the deference owed to the legislative process." The Louisiana legislature "found that requiring abortion providers to hold admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform abortions would serve the public interest by protecting women's health and safety," he wrote. In Gorsuch's view, the Court should have respected the wisdom of that legislative determination.

The Supreme Court's decision in June Medical Services v. Russo is available here.

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  1. I’m glad they were able to make room to decide a duplicate case by ignoring 2A ones.

    1. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      1. Didn’t mean to flag stupid phone scrolling… Sry

  2. Just wondering; did the LA case include the word “previability” ?

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  3. Robert’s is full of fucking shit. if he believed in stare decisis he would have rejected the challenge on Article III standing as Thomas noted.

    1. By the way, if this was truly his stance he would have taken up one of the many 2and amendment cases on defense of Heller. He hasnt. He is a fucking weasel.

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  4. “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.”


    1. A living Constitution but dead precedent.

  5. Because this time his vote mattered, and before he could virtue signal to conservative rubes? Too cynical?

    1. Nope. On the nose.

      He states his primary goal is to not undermine the credibility of the court. This apparently means value signaling for the right in cases he isnt needed and bending a knee to the left in cases he is needed.

      1. He’s been doing that a lot, lately.

  6. All the liberals I know should be in love with John Roberts by now. For some reason they still consider him one of the ‘bad ones”. I don’t understand.

    1. At least conservatives have a reason to vote come November, what about Democrats? Maybe they get too complacent with rulings like this one and the DACA one.

    2. They have to keep calling him the bad one so NYT and Wapo can continue to push the narrative that Roberts seems to follow. If he doesn’t vote the way those 2 rags seems fit, he has lost the confidence in the court.

    3. He’s a W. appointee. Even if he sides with RBG every time, he can only ever be considered “moderately conservative” for that reason.

  7. >>whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

    yeah, no. asshat. the fucking answer was no.

  8. What will interesting is the conservative who will ring there hands and ask why did Justice Roberts do this? It not a case that Justice Roberts is wrong here, the case is he was wrong in the Women’s Whole Health. The requirement for admitting privileges is a rouse, because most hospitals can be pressured to deny admitting privileges. There is no health reason to require admitting privileges, medical abortions today require little more than a prescription. On the off chance an admission was necessary it would likely be through the ER and the abortion doctor could easily relay as information to the ER staff.
    Think of the amount of money and energy that goes into making abortion illegal and what it could do if it was instead focused on making abortions unnecessary. What a waste.

    1. And stupidest take goes to..

    2. he can be wrong on multiple levels.

      Stare decisis is a crap principle.

      Regulation of health care is unconsitutional.

      He got it wrong on two levels.

    3. What a waste? That’s rich. How about the waste of countless human lives because their parents couldn’t be bothered to take responsibility for their choices because it was just too damn hard. I’m still blown away by the amount of rationalizing and euphemisms employed to justify an individual’s narcissism even at the direct cost of another human life. I’d at least have more respect for the other side if they just came out and said this is about enshrining consequence free sex and deciding which lives have more value (i.e. “curing” down syndrome).

      I understand, at this point the genie is out of the bottle and it’s never going back, but I have no problem with making it as difficult as possible. How hard is it to wrap it up?

      1. “How hard is it to wrap it up?”

        Not hard at all but we don’t live in a perfect world you inconsiderate moron and accidents do happen! You know, like breakage or slipping of a condom. Just saying!

        1. You justify the practice of abortion with a scenario that barely registers as statistical blip? You’re being disingenuous. Why not just say what this is actually about?

          1. You make it sound like women are lining up around the block at every Planned Parenthood each day just to get an abortion like it’s a fucking fashion statement and I’m the one being disingenuous? Ok, got it!

            1. Of the 623,471 abortions performed in the United States in 2016, how many do you think were due to condom breakage or user error? You mentioned his silly scenario to begin with, so either make a logical case for it, or just state what this is really about.

              1. What this is about is what it’s always been about, righteous pricks like you that are upset that you can’t have 100% control over another individual. There, you happy now!

                1. Control another individual? I was unaware that I’m forcing anyone to have sex, much less unprotected sex. Please explain.

        2. An appeal to probability, huh. Very disingenuous.

      2. You know right now there is no shortage of human lives on this planet and instead of focusing on lives that will never be, we might focus on making the lives of the people here better. We are prepared to throw the living and instead focus on the idea of what might be. If you took the money and energy going into making abortions illegal and put that into making living people lives better, women might say to them selves yes I can raise this child. I have the resources and support to take care of this child.

    4. *wring

      “Think of the amount of money and energy that goes into making abortion illegal and what it could do if it was instead focused on making abortions unnecessary. What a waste.”

      This seems to be advocating forced sterilization

    5. Actually, there’s good reason to require anybody performing abortions to have admitting privileges: Even with pills you can still eff a patient up hard enough that they need a trip to the OR. I would actually argue for requiring admitting privileges for anybody who wants to perform any procedures where ‘normal’ types of screwing up cannot be fixed outside of the hospital–and yes, there are pretty standard ideas of what is and isn’t normal because it does matter a lot if there was any chance you could have known there was a risk of it happening. (You generally will be safe if it is definitely a weird event, like ‘patient just spontaneously exploded.’)

      1. YA so what. You think the hospital gets to reject people because their doctor doesn’t have admitting privilege? ABSURD

        As you correctly point out is not required for other procedures.

    6. EXACTLY. There is NO reason a doctor needs admitting privilege.

  9. Anything can be rationalized.

    One of the reasons for the Bataan Death March was that the Japanese didn’t have enough mechanized transport for so many prisoners. That rationalization does nothing to justify murdering stragglers. A rationalization never justifies anything.

    There are reasons for everything because every effect has a cause. There are reasons why serial killers do what they do. Maybe the serial killer was abused by his mother. Listing the causes is just a rationalization masquerading as a persuasive argument. Because your mother abused you doesn’t justify being a serial killer.

    There are really only two reasons why anybody willingly does anything.

    1) Because you want to.

    2) Because you can.

    Those are the reasons why Roberts sided with the left, and neither of them justify anything. Roberts always finds reasons to side with the left because reasons can always be found. The question is why he so often sides with the left, and the answer is because he wants to.

    1. I’ll give Roberts the benefit of the doubt here regarding stare decisis, I think he does believe that once a case is decided, rightly or wrongly, it must remain decided. His blistering dissent in Bostock, where he argued that “sex” under Title VII most certainly did not mean “sexual orientation” the previous times it had been argued and therefore shouldn’t mean it this……Hang on, I’m getting word here that Roberts did not in fact give a rat’s ass about stare decisis in that case but actually went along with the majority in making new law out of whole cloth. I guess you’re right, if the law is so fucked up by this point that you can argue any damn point you want to and cite precedent to back it, Roberts can claim “principles” for any ruling he wants to make.

      1. Except for Roberts also agreed to an entirely new Article III standing claim in siding with the liberals here. One not supported by stare decisis.

      2. Then, in his mind we should be able to lock up certain citizens like FDR did the Japanese and arrest people for talking bad about the government policies like Wilson did. Hey, they were ‘decided’.

      3. Absolutely, he deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to stare decisis. I can’t wait for him to take out the case of separate but equal and say that brown v board of education was wrong because plessy v Ferguson was stare decisis. All hail progressivism.

    2. Because law? The constitution? I notice not many of you have a problem with Stare Decisis, just with Roberts siding with the left. Which really just means you want an impartial court so long as it is conservative.

      1. That might make more sense if he weren’t willing to invent whole new species of rationalizations like the “penal-tax”.

  10. Chief Justice John Roberts: the Bush-appointed “conservative” justice who never sides with court conservatives when politicos are watching because, admittedly, he fears being accused of partisanship, and SCOTUS rulings are all about him.

    1. He lives for appreciative nods in the NYT and WaPo.

  11. Sll of these cases are decided years in advance by the oligarchy, and justices whom don’t wish to die prematurely at a hunting retreat in Texas arrange themselves into whatever majority opinion they must in order to have the predetermined outcome. By shuffling (Conservative) justices into and out of whichever coalition is voting for the corpo-leftist agenda this time each justice (except for Thomas who DGAF) they can ensure the predetermined outcome while trying to maintain the illusion of having principles.

  12. The Louisiana legislature “found that requiring abortion providers to hold admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform abortions would serve the public interest by protecting women’s health and safety,” he wrote. In Gorsuch’s view, the Court should have respected the wisdom of that legislative determination.

    Gorsuch is living in a fantasy land if he thinks the legislature was acting in good faith.

      1. If this was about solving a problem the legislature would have focused on doing away with “admitting privileges”. Whatever the hell that is. If any normal person can bring a petson to a hospital why should a doctor require special permission?

      2. Yeah dude, this is weak sauce. I am against abortion, but it is absolutely clear what they were trying to do here.

        The case you cite would not have been prevented if the doctor had admitting privileges. The woman immediately went to the hospital and was cared for immediately.

        1. I like how people have been so inundated by the narrative even those against it push it.

          These centers often operate with less cleanliness than your average dental center. This is how shit like Gosnell happens.

          Pushing the narrative doesnt mean instances like that dont exist. In many states it is common.

          Sorry you’ve been convinced otherwise.

    1. Need a quick laugh?

      Here you go:


      The Obama legacy has now been almost completely overturned.

      1. You must tired of all the winning. Lol!

        1. It doesn’t feel like we’re winning over the last four months, but if the enemy was Obama’s awful policies and legacy, then, yeah, we’ve largely won that one.

          ObamaCare gone.
          Paris Climate Treaty gone.
          Iran Nuclear Deal gone.
          CFPB gone.

          The survival of DACA was unexpected by pretty much everybody, and given the basis of its reprieve, I doubt it will survive forever.

          Other than that, can you think of anything that might be considered Obama’s legacy that has survived?

          The problem with executive order and unconstitutional actions is that they don’t tend to last–maybe that’s Obama’s legacy.

          1. Other than that, can you think of anything that might be considered Obama’s legacy that has survived?

            Eight years of government professionals that filled every institution while he was there.

            Here’s an interesting interview with Peter Hitchens where he describes how profound the Blair administration was on the direction of Britain.

        2. No idea if he is or not but you are obviously super butthurt about losing again lololol

  13. Democratic theory of Constitutuonal interpretation:

    Explicit Constitutional right to free speech? Yeah, but hate speech, like, hurts marginalized people’s feelings and could inspire someone (a right-winger, obviously) to acts of violence, so it really needs to be regulated.

    Explicit Constitutional right to bear arms? Yeah, but lots of guns are super scary, and 18th-century people didn’t think civilians would ever have military grade weapons, so they really need to be regulated.

    Extrapolated right to perform and solicit abortions within the first trimester, drawn from an implicit Constitutional right to privacy? Sacrosanct! Stare decisis! Super-precedent! Sexual violence if any legislation makes this right the slightest bit inconvenient to exercise! We all know healthcare is a human right, demanding heavy government regulation and oversight, unless its purpose is to destroy and extract one’s unborn offspring — the safest and least traumatic family of medical procedures in herstory.

  14. All the progressives who have been loudly proclaiming that the Roberts Court would overturn Roe v. Wade must be really confused.

  15. The reason why the wise Justice Roberts voted on the side of the pro-abortion justices is because he too recognizes that the unborn, like the rest of us, have no legal reason to give the unborn any due process. Mr. Roberts and the rest of the “liberal” justices are correct in their analysis.
    After all, if we give unborn humans due process, then the courts will have no other alternative to give everyone due process, at that is something is totally alien to any socialist slave state. Indeed, if it weren’t for mass murdering everyone on an equal basis, where would Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia be today? It would be over-run by the living garbage called humans who only would demand more freedom, more money and worse yet, less power from The State.
    So let us continue down the path of butchering the unborn so we can emulate the socialist saints like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot so we too can be counted as one of those countries that are prudent enough embrace mass murder on the most innocuous among us.

  16. The real reason is pissed off libs are scarier than unborn children. Roberts is a coward that would happily sacrifice life to score points.

    1. coward who* would

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