John Roberts is losing control of the Supreme Court as far-right conservatives take charge: legal analyst
Chief Justice John Roberts (screengrab)

According to an analysis from CNN's Supreme Court correspondent Joan Biskupic, Chief Justice John Roberts is beginning to lose control of the so-called "Roberts court" as the far-right majority starts using its numbers to radically change settled law and push through their own agenda.

Following a Friday ruling -- written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch --that allowed the restrictive Texas abortion ban to stand while permitting women's health providers to pursue limited legal challenges to it, the CNN legal analyst suggested that Roberts is no longer in control of the direction of the court.

In a sharp dissent aimed at justices who signed onto the Gorsuch opinion, Roberts wrote "The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings," noting the legislative name of the Texas bill.

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He added, "Indeed, '[i]f 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."

According to Biskupic, Roberts' words likely were dismissed by the conservative majority.

"The chief failed to win a crucial fifth vote for that opinion and found himself dissenting, along with three liberal justices, in a case that cuts to the core of reproductive rights and the court's own authority," the CNN analyst suggested before adding, "Most significantly for women's rights, Roberts' dissent Friday suggests his efforts at some compromise in a separate abortion case of nationwide significance could falter."

Calling Roberts a "committed conservative in most areas of the law," Biskupic stated that the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett began a sea-change in how the court rules, adding, "... as the nine [Justices] have fractured, their opinions have grown more acerbic."

In order to understand how Roberts' influence has waned, the analyst wrote, "The entire abortion debate at America's high court in recent months has revealed a transformation in the majority's view toward reproductive rights and Roberts' loosening grip on the bench."

As for the future of allowing women to make their own decisions on reproductive health matters, Biskupic added, "During separate December 1 arguments in the Mississippi abortion case, Roberts signaled that he was trying to persuade at least one justice in that right-wing bloc to join him in a decision that would preserve at least a small part of Roe v. Wade. Roberts appeared ready to uphold Mississippi's prohibition on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which would violate Roe's fetal viability cutoff, yet still preserve some constitutional right to abortion in earlier weeks."

"It seemed a tough sell, though possible, at the time. The five-justice majority's overall disregard for Roe on Friday suggests such a compromise may be even more elusive than it appeared," she reported.

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