Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down a Texas law that banned abortions if the doctor doing the procedure did not have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Chief Justice John Roberts was one of the four who voted for keeping the law.
In the meantime, generally pro-abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and was replaced by generally pro-life Justice Brett Kavanaugh. So the perception was that when a similar case came from Louisiana this week, the nation’s high court would have a majority who would uphold the restrictions on abortion.
That didn’t happen; the court voted it down 5-4 just like last time. How? Chief Justice Roberts switched his vote, siding with the four liberal justices to strike the law down.
What changed? Not Robert’s perceived constitutionality of the law, but rather the fact that it was now established by Supreme Court precedent in the Texas case — the very case that Roberts had voted against.
That just shows the incredible logical leaps that Roberts will go to preserve precedent. It is almost as if in his eyes the Supreme Court is to America what a pronouncement invoked by the pope to be infallible is to the Catholic Church.
What was wrong four years ago in Roberts’ own sight is now right four years later because the Supreme Court said so.
On one hand, we sympathize with the chief justice. He’s a good man who wants to try to hold the seams of this nation together at a time when it is bursting apart by extremists pulling both right and left. Clearly his perception is that the Supreme Court must not be viewed by the public as strictly partisan in its decision making but rather following the rule of law as best it sees fit. That neutrality of the courts is vitally important to a democracy, and it’s especially key when the other two branches of the federal government — Congress and the executive branch led by the president — are so firmly divided into partisan camps.
Yet sometimes the Supreme Court simply gets it wrong. When it does, it’s the job of the justices to make it right again according to what the law says.
Of course, in the big picture these abortion cases are small steps toward a greater aim: Overturning the infamous Roe v. Wade case from 1973 that legalized abortion. That’s an example of the Supreme Court getting it flat-out wrong: The court invented a right to privacy that is not specifically granted in the Constitution and then took the absurd logical step of saying that the mythical right to privacy somehow also guaranteed the right for a woman to have an abortion. Clearly the Constitution says nothing about a right to an abortion, meaning that through the 10th Amendment any laws about abortion should be left to individual states.
That mistake by the court has led to the deaths of millions of unborn children over the past 47 years and will continue to do so until the Supreme Court rights its faulty logic. Roberts cannot run from Roe v. Wade forever on precedent grounds. At some point he must face right and wrong.