Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo. Splitting 5-4, the majority of Justices invalidated a Louisiana state requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital.
As we previously reported, the ACLJ had filed an amicus brief supporting the Louisiana law and attacking the myth that abortion is safer than childbirth. The law in question subjected abortionists to the hospital credentialing process and thus would help to weed out some of the worst abortion (mal)practitioners. (Indeed, in Louisiana the facts showed that one abortion clinic had even employed a radiologist and an ophthalmologist to do abortions!) Now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling, that protection for women will not be in effect.
This is a setback for the pro-life movement. The decision is especially disheartening because Chief Justice John Roberts, who had previously voted on the pro-life side in a similar case, switched and voted to form a pro-abortion majority.
It was not surprising that Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, voted to overturn the Louisiana law. These four Justices consistently vote in favor of abortion and in 2016 had voted to strike down a Texas law very similar to the Louisiana law challenged in June Medical. But Chief Justice Roberts had dissented in that case. Yet here is what he stated yesterday in June Medical:
I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. . . . Today’s case [involves] a Louisiana law nearly identical to the Texas law struck down four years ago in Whole Woman’s Health. . . . 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.
What? He admits the prior decision was wrong, claims this new case is essentially the same as the prior case, yet now he goes along with a decision he admittedly believes is wrong? How can this be?
The Chief Justice cites the principle of stare decisis – adherence to precedent. The idea is that, generally, it is more important that an issue be settled than that it be settled correctly.
In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas responded: “when our prior decisions clearly conflict with the text of the Constitution, we are required to ‘privilege [the] text over our own precedents.’” That is, the Court is obligated to follow the Constitution first, not the Court’s previous erroneous decisions.
Justice Thomas forthrightly condemned the Supreme Court’s abortion cases:
those decisions created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution’s text. Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled.
Justice Thomas is exactly right. He and the other three Justices (Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh) who dissented in June Medical rightly decried the majority’s vote to strike down Louisiana’s regulation.
Ever since the terrible Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, the pro-life movement has fought to stop the slaughter of millions of babies in their mothers’ wombs. That battle will continue unabated. And here at the ACLJ, we will continue to fight to protect innocent life, and to spare women from the exploitation and injury that abortion causes.
This ruling is a setback to be sure, but not one that can’t be overcome. This is a generational struggle for human life. We will not give up. We will defend the unborn.
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