With the 5-4 decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Chief Justice John Roberts was the only conservative judge to side with the liberal judges in not striking down abortion rights. A new CNN investigative report claims that Roberts was pushing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh to change his vote concerning the abortion case leading up to the decision.
Let’s keep in mind that Roberts voted to uphold the restrictive Mississippi abortion law in a 6-3 vote. However, in his concurring opinion, Roberts seemed to be against striking down Roe in its entirety. Despite being very conservative, Roberts was involved in votes that have swung in favor of liberals concerning LBTQ rights and DACA.
“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases,” Roberts wrote in his concurring opinion, released on Friday along with the majority opinion. “A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”
Justice Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearing he believed that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and reportedly told Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) the same thing. Kavanaugh would vote against the Dobbs case anyway, but CNN points out Justice Roberts has succeeded in getting Kavanaugh to switch his vote before. When it came down to a crucial vote to save the Affordable Care Act in 2021, Justice Kavanaugh voted with the liberals.
Multiple sources told CNN that Roberts’ overtures this spring, particularly to Kavanaugh, raised fears among conservatives and hope among liberals that the chief could change the outcome in the most closely watched case in decades. Once the draft was published by Politico, conservatives pressed their colleagues to try to hasten release of the final decision, lest anything suddenly threaten their majority.
Roberts felt he could push Kavanaugh again with the impending vote on abortion rights. However, CNN notes the memo’s leak is said to have created tensions inside the judicial chambers and fears of future swing roles because of the perception that judges would be caving to public pressure. The leaked draft memo showing the Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade is still being investigated as to how it got out.