If voters opposed to legal abortion thought electing President Donald Trump would mean his conservative appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court would finally tip the scale in their favor, they didn't count on one factor.
Chief Justice John Roberts.
On Monday, in a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a 2014 Louisiana law requiring that doctors who perform abortions at a clinic also have admitting privileges to a hospital located within 30 miles.
A plaintiff in the case is Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, the closest abortion provider to Texarkana and the only one still standing for many miles around.
Louisiana, which has passed more laws aimed at curtailing abortions than any other state since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, defended the law, even though the court had in 2016 overturned a similar law passed in Texas that had caused about half the state's abortion clinics to close.
In the Texas case, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote. This time out, with Kennedy retired, it was Roberts.
Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority and Roberts wrote a concurring opinion. Breyer wrote that the law was driven by political motives — opposition to abortion — and placed an undue restriction of the procedure while offering no medical benefit to women. Roberts relied on the 2016 Texas case and said the Louisiana law could not stand under such a precedent.
In dissent, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas made it clear he had no use for Roe v. Wade or subsequent decisions favoring abortion rights at all.
"Those decisions created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution's text," Thomas wrote. "Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled."
We suspect many of President Trump's supporters agree with Thomas. But this makes three times in the past couple of weeks that the court has ruled against the administration's stated position. Unless the president gets another court slot to fill — and maybe not even then — there may not be any real chance abortion rights could be curtailed.