In several big-ticket cases this term, the conservative Supreme Court appeared to give significant wins to progressives. On issues including abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ equality, a majority of the Court voted for seemingly progressive results. And in the subpoena cases issued on the last day of the term, the Court rejected the president’s sweeping argument that his personal financial records are off-limits to Congress and state grand juries. But on closer inspection, these opinions and others actually gave conservatives some important wins as well.
One of the most crucial apparent victories for progressives came in the Louisiana abortion case. The Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s restrictive abortion law that would have required all abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform abortions. Four years ago, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court invalidated the same law when Texas enacted it.
The result in the Louisiana case was certainly a progressive win. But the reasoning in Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion spells trouble for abortion rights down the road. The majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, said that the law was invalid because it offered very little benefits and imposed some rather substantial obstacles. The chief justice wrote separately to say that he agreed the Louisiana law was invalid, but only because he believed that the Court must stay in line with its decision four years ago.