John Roberts’ Long History of Abortion and Roe v. Wade

He helped hang banners against Roe during the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush administrations. But years later, during Senate hearings in 2005 for the post of chief justice he now holds, Roberts testified that Roe should be respected as a precedent, especially after being asserted. in 1992. And he has largely kept to that.

Now, Roberts, the Supreme Court and the country face a critical moment for abortion rights. And Roberts’ actions in a dispute that a court will hear this week, over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, may be his biggest consequence. He leads a conservative bench, since last year’s successor Amy Coney Barrett for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appeared on the verge of reversing Roe v. Wade.

The parties to the Mississippi controversy known at Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health included in their summary lines excerpts from Roberts’ comments concerning abortion rights and the value of compliance. Take precedent or alternatively, remove it. The Chief Justice writes carefully, never leaving himself in the cement, which allows both sides to emphasize words that suit their purposes.

Roberts represented more than one vote out of nine votes. As the head, he directs the discussion. If he has a majority, he also agrees to speak in court. Furthermore, Roberts has attempted to instill public confidence in the federal judiciary and has repeatedly argued that its opinions reflect the neutral, unbiased views of the judges. than any political instinct.

Polls show that public approval of the court has declined in recent months, notably since September 1, when a majority allowed Texas’ ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to go into effect even as litigation over the law clearly contradicted the law. A dispute with Roe against Wade is underway. Roberts has distanced himself from his colleagues on the right in that case, disagreeing as he writes that the courts should at least temporarily suspend the ban while the courts assess the effect of the law. Court listen to oral arguments on November 1st and there is still no regulation.
Not like the difference procedural disputes in the Texas case, the abortion controversy in Mississippi goes straight to the heart of abortion rights, examining whether women nationwide have the right to terminate a pregnancy before it becomes viable. That is, when the fetus can live outside the womb, at 22-24 weeks.
How the Supreme Court Decided Roe v.  Wade and its meaning today

Both Roe v. Wade, nearly half a century ago, and deciding to assert it two decades later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, both claim viability is limited when a pregnant woman’s interest can overshadowed by protection for the fetus.

Roberts wrote in a Louisiana case in 2020 citing the 1992 decision: “Casey reaffirms the ‘most central principle of Roe v. Wade,’ “the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy before she is able to conceive. exist “.

The question now is whether that line is kept.

The Reagan and Bush Years

After graduating from Harvard Law School and completing his duties as Supreme Court clerk with then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist, Roberts joined the Reagan administration in 1981.

Reagan campaigned on a platform against Roe suing Wade and claiming “the sanctity of innocent human life.” His administration has railed against reproductive rights in its policy agenda and court filings.

Roberts, who served as a junior attorney at the Reagan Department of Justice and later in the White House counsel’s office, assumed more responsibility for the administration’s legal agenda when President Bush first took office in in 1989. Roberts became deputy attorney general of the United States, representing the federal government before the Supreme Court.

Roberts directed the 1991 case of Rust sues Sullivan, as the administration argues it could ban federally funded family planning clinics from providing abortion counseling services. This case examined whether the ban impeded the free speech of doctors and other health care providers.

“We continue to believe that Roe made the wrong decision and should be dismissed,” the Bush administration said in a brief signed by Roberts. It contends Roe sues Wade for lack of any support in the text or history of the Constitution. The High Court had grounds to terminate a pregnancy in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process warrant for individual liberties and based on previous cases asserting the privacy of individuals. core.

Inside the court: Three hours of history could decide the future of abortion rights

The Supreme Court narrowly ruled against the Bush administration in Rust v Sullivan, allowing the government to ban abortion-related counseling at federally funded clinics, but waive any review. What’s new about Roe.

Next year, 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey In most cases, the majority of the judges highlighted from the outset that the Reagan and Bush administrations had argued in a total of six cases in the previous decade to overturn Roe: “Liberty found no refuge in a law However, 19 years after we hold that the Constitution protects women’s right to terminate pregnancy in its early stages, that definition remains in doubt. asked as amicus curiae, USA, as it has done in five other cases over the past decade, again asking us to overrule Roe.”

On the bench

During Senate hearings when President George W. Bush selected him first for the United States appeals court and then elevated him to the Supreme Court, Roberts said his arguments were on behalf of previous administrations. This reflects his professional stance and not necessarily his personal views. He also said Roe is entitled to respect according to the principles of “decisive stare”, i.e. adherence to precedent.

Unlike conservative colleagues Judge Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, Roberts has refused to make public the review of Roe in his articles as justice.

Nor did he vote as hard against abortion rights as Justice Brett Kavanaugh or outspoken personally like Barrett. Before becoming a judge, Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, was a vocal critic of Roe suing Wade, including signing a statement denouncing Roe’s “barbaric legacy” and calling out “children unborn children are protected by law.”

Roberts is a lifelong Catholic whose wife, Jane, has provided professional legal advice to the Feminist Foundation Life Against Abortion. Roberts told senators in 2005 that his faith would not be a factor in his rulings.

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Two years after the confirmation, Roberts helped build a 5-party block of justice that ruled that the federal government could ban the abortion procedure in which a woman’s cervix is ​​dilated and the fetus is removed. out intact. Critics call it “partial abortion”. The 2007 Supreme Court decision essentially overturned a 2000 ruling that invalidated a similar injunction against Nebraska law proceeding.

The Supreme Court’s next major abortion came nearly a decade later, in 2016, and Roberts dissented when a majority rejected Texas’ requirements that physicians performing abortions be admitted privileges” at a local hospital and the clinics converted to expensive hospital-grade facilities. .

But in a 2020 controversy over similar physician certification requirements in Louisiana, Roberts voted against that 2016 precedent-based law. Roberts said he still disagrees with the 2016 decision but will follow it as a precedent. His rationale and key decision ballot in the June Health Service case v. However, Russo will strengthen the defenses of the states abortion regulations.

United Citizens

The Mississippi case means the transition of reproductive rights. It does not focus on a single regulation of abortion but on a wholesale ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state wants the high court to reverse Roe’s detention to protect a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy before it becomes feasible.

Mississippi officials assert that “Roe and Casey are indisputable,” and they take back lines from Roberts’ comments in the 2020 Louisiana case that show the balance of government interests and rights Women’s reproduction should be left to “legislators, not judges.”

Mississippi attorneys highlight Roberts’ concurrence vote and opinion in the 2010 case about Citizens of United sue the Federal Election Commission, when judges by a 5-4 vote reversed precedent and lifted regulations on independent corporate spending on election campaigns.

“The ultimate aim of Stare Decisionis,” the Mississippi attorneys wrote, “is to serve the constitutional ideal – the rule of law,” adopting Roberts’ words from 2010 and arguing that “in compliance with Roe and Casey ” would do more harm than good to this constitutional ideal. rather than to promote it. ‘”

A group of constitutional law scholars advocating for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization countered those arguments with other streams of opinion from the point of view of Roberts’ Citizens’ Association, noting that he wrote that “Being faithful to precedent — uncompromising policy — is essential to the proper functioning of the judiciary.” Even as he voted to overturn precedent, Roberts found in that case that looking Decision recognition promotes predictable development of the law, promotes confidence in judgments, and contributes to increased awareness of judicial integrity.

The Jackson Women’s Health Foundation itself briefly cited Citizen United as it asserted that while some may disagree with previous rulings, “it is important that judicial defense must hold the company without the most dramatic and unexpected changes in law or practice”, so judges are not seen as merely exercising their own preferences.

Other supporters of the Jackson Women’s Health Foundation, including the Department of Justice, represented by the Joe Biden administration, revived Roberts’ assertion from the June Health Services lawsuit that “for the precedent means that whatever, doctrine (of assertiveness) has to give way based solely on reasoning beyond whether the case is correctly decided.”

And that is the essence of the Supreme Court’s loyalty to precedent. This principle goes beyond whether a decision can be called “right” or “improper,” to whether it is still central to the structure of American law and ultimately fully trusted. enough or not.


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