How anti-abortion activists are reacting to the June Supreme Court medical decision.


An anti-abortion activist seen during a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court on Monday.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Abortion rights activists on Monday celebrated when the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that would have closed two of the state’s three abortion clinics. The law, which was similar to the Texas law removed in 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, required abortion providers to have admission privileges at a local hospital, a credential that can be prohibitively difficult to obtain. * John Roberts cast the deciding vote in decision 5–4, relying on the liberal wing of the court for the third time in just a few weeks.

For social conservatives and anti-abortion activists, the ruling on June Medical Services v. Russo It hurt, and the fact that the defeat came from a Republican-nominated judge George W. Bush only sharpened the sting. “We are obviously disappointed,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “We see this as an act of treason and an act of cowardice.” She described Roberts as a “jacket”. Other anti-abortion leaders described the chief justice as “useless” and “a major disappointment.” Alexandra DeSanctis, staff writer for National Review, called Roberts’s view “philosophizing on the couch … straight out of a debate in a first-year dorm.”

But if the anti-abortion movement is united in its disappointment at Roberts’s role in the setback, it is somewhat less unified in its importance to the movement’s strategy in the future. The institutional anti-abortion movement has spent years instructing people with anti-abortion convictions to “vote for life.” In presidential elections, this means voting for the candidate who will install federal judges considered friendly to his cause. What does it say about that strategy that a Republican-nominated justice has given your movement a major defeat?

“We see this as an act of treason and an act of cowardice.”

– Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America

Some activists argue that the loss is just another reminder that judges matter. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, stated that the ruling indicates that “we need more conservative judges on the United States Supreme Court.” Just because Roberts is a disappointment doesn’t mean it makes sense to stop investing in judicial strategy, such thinking goes. Roberts has sided with the liberal wing of the court in several important cases in recent years, including votes to preserve key aspects of Obamacare. But supporters of the president within the anti-abortion movement noted that the two justices of the Supreme Court he nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, faithfully dissenting. “The two confirmed President Trump nominees were on the right side,” Hawkins told me. “He has kept his promises to the pro-life community.”

Other Trump supporters were even more forceful about what they see as potentially imminent progress. Johnnie Moore, a member of the president’s evangelical advisory board, tweeted that despite the setback, “conservatives know they are on the subway line,” and suggested that evangelical participation in November will therefore be “unprecedented.” . The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, noted to the Associated Press that the two oldest members of the court, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are liberals. “No one can predict the future, but who will name their replacements when the time comes?” Pavone said. “That is a question that motivates many voters.”

Other social conservatives are not so sure. “At some point, even the most ardent white pro-life evangelicals will tire of the Republicans.” More judges! “Sales pitch,” tweeted Matthew Anderson, a Texas writer. Andrew Walker, professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, echoed this sentiment. “I don’t know how a conservative would see what we got from the so-called judges. Conservatives and would not be completely discouraged, “he told me Monday.” I don’t think this will nullify the conservative legal movement. I don’t think it denies the importance of how judges influence voting decisions. But it weakens it significantly. ”

The decision in June medical services It came just a few weeks after another disappointing ruling for social conservatives: a 6–3 decision protecting gay and transgender workers from discrimination at work. In that decision, Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, with Roberts and the four liberal judges joining him. Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a rising star within conservative social circles, denounced that decision as “the end of the conservative legal movement” from the Senate floor on June 16:

The deal has never been explicitly articulated, but religious conservatives know what it is about. The deal is that you agree with the party’s establishment, support its policies and priorities, or at least keep quiet about it, and in return the establishment will put some judges on the bench who are supposed to protect your constitutional rights to freedom of worship, freedom of exercise. That is what we have been told for years.

For Walker and the religious conservatives he described earlier this year as “Trump reluctant voters,” Monday’s ruling was a reminder that so far, that deal has not paid off. Walker said he has not decided how to vote in November, but that the Supreme Court decisions of the past two weeks have “substantially altered” the way he views judicial nominations in his decision. “One of the main premises of why religious conservatives have been willing to pull the lever of someone who they believe is seriously morally flawed is because we would get good judges,” he said. “I think it is a major turning point.”

Correction, June 30, 2020: This piece originally misspelled Whole Woman’s Health.

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