Chief Justice Roberts warns SCOTUS could lose authority on Texas abortion law case

The U.S. Supreme Court came down with a ruling this week regarding S.B. 5, a Texas law designed to protect unborn children from abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

While the decision was split mostly along ideological lines, NBC News noted that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Supreme Court’s liberal justices rather than his fellow conservatives. What’s more, he issued a stark warning in which he claimed the high court could lose its authority if it circumvents lower courts on the issue. 

The Texas law in question allows anyone to sue those who carry out or facilitate abortions more than six weeks into a pregnancy. While the high court’s majority has said that abortion providers are free to sue over it, they refused to issue an injunction blocking it.

Constitutional concerns

In crafting his opinion, Roberts complained that the law’s “clear purpose and actual effect” is “to nullify this Court’s rulings,” something he considers to be an attack on America’s constitutional order.

The chief justice cited an 1809 case in which SCOTUS declared, “The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.”

“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery,” it continued.

Roberts went on to insist “that the Constitution is the ‘fundamental and paramount law of the nation,’ and ‘[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.'”

This is not the only case regarding abortion that the Supreme Court has taken up, as earlier this month it heard oral arguments regarding a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, as Fox News noted.

Roberts goes liberal?

Nor is it the first time that Roberts has sided with the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, which has led to extreme criticism from many conservatives.

Last year he voted to invalidate a Louisiana law that tightened safety requirements for abortion clinics despite having previously said a similar Texas law was constitutional.

Fox News reported that his decision brought an angry rebuke from Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (R), who accused the chief justice of being a flip-flopper.

“The chief justice today joined with four liberals on the court to strike down the Louisiana statute,” Kennedy said at the time. “Four years ago in a case out of Texas, same statute, same issue, the chief justice voted with the conservatives. Today, he voted with the liberals. He changed his vote.”

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