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End the duopoly

Abortion decision puts chief justice who wants to avoid politics at the center of a political debate

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” John Roberts wrote, adding, “Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.” WASHINGTON — Four years ago, when the Supreme Court struck down parts of a Texas law that had reduced the number of abortion providers in the state by half, Chief Justice John Roberts joined a blistering dissent.

Yet on Monday, when the court issued its opinion in a similar case on abortion restrictions in Louisiana, the conservative jurist surprisingly sided with his four liberal colleagues in ruling that the Louisiana limitations had to fall, too.

Roberts’s apparent about-face did not come from a change of heart about the legality of abortion restrictions — he wrote in his concurrence opinion that he still thinks he was right in the Texas case — but because of his commitment to a doctrine that can seem out of fashion in the era of President Trump: the power of precedent.

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote, adding, “Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

It was the biggest abortion case of Trump’s presidency so far and a profound disappointment […]

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