There are many reasons elements of the right went to the mattresses during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court. The biggest reason, however, was simple. They believed that with Kavanaugh on the court, they would be one step closer to overturning Roe v. Wade and opening the door for states to ban abortion outright or enact extremely onerous restrictions on it.
That’s a big reason why a number of right-wing luminaries were up in arms when Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court’s four liberals in a decision that, for now, keeps one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country off the books. In so doing, Roberts may have Roe v. Wade on life support for at least another year.
At issue was an ultra-restrictive Louisiana law passed in 2014 that would have required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The problem? It would have had the effect of shutting down two of the three abortion clinics left in Louisiana. The only clinic that meets that requirement is located in Shreveport–appropriately named Hope Medical Group for Women.
This law is a carbon copy of a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, prompting a challenge from Hope Medical Group and two doctors. A panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to allow the law to take effect while the legal process sorts itself out, prompting the doctors to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.
According to ThinkProgress’ Ian Milhiser, if the Supremes voted to let the law take effect, it would give lower court judges carte blanche to “openly defy Supreme Court decisions protecting a right to abortion”–which would have likely resulted in Roe v. Wade dying a very slow death. But in a 5-4 decision, the Supremes stayed the law pending a challenge to the law itself. In all likelihood, that challenge won’t make it to the Supreme Court until 2020 at the earliest.
Oh, how the wingnuts howled. Mark Levin, for instance, called Roberts’ vote in favor of the stay nothing short of a betrayal.
Incredibly, this was one of the milder reactions. Here’s a sample.
The most furious reaction came from American Family Radio afternoon drive time host Bryan Fischer, who hurled what may be the ultimate insult a Republican can hurl at another Republican in the Donald Trump era.
Never mind that Roberts was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005–four years before Obama took office. But Fischer had a ready explanation. On Friday’s edition of his radio show, “Focal Point,” Fischer claimed that Roberts had proven himself a heretic long before voting to give Roe v. Wade a reprieve. Watch here.
Fischer claimed that even though Roberts had been appointed by Bush 43, he “converted” to an Obama judge when he provided the decisive vote to uphold Obamacare–a move that, as Fischer saw it, effectively “rewrote the Constitution.”
What Fischer, Levin and others don’t want you to know is that Roberts’ move can hardly be described as an unqualified victory for abortion rights. The decision, remember, was not on the merits of the Louisiana law. Milhiser noted that the nearly identical Texas law was thrown out on a 5-3 vote–with Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas as the dissenters. If Roberts, Alito and Thomas vote to uphold the Louisiana law, it’s very likely that Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will join them.
For that reason, Milhiser believes that Roberts’ vote to grant the stay had the effect of putting Roe v. Wade in “hospice care”–and that he and the Court’s other four conservatives are likely to “smother it with a pillow” when they rule on the Louisiana law’s merits.
But then again, such little things as facts never got in the way of a right-wing campaign of outrage and fake news.
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