Abortion opponents vented their disappointment and fury on Monday after the US Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision to strike down a Louisiana law that would have curbed abortion access.

The ruling delivered a defeat to anti-abortion activists, but President Donald Trump's re-election campaign quickly invoked it as part of a new appeal to voters — signaling its power to motivate religious conservatives who are a key part of his base ahead of November's election.

Vice President Mike Pence summed up that argument, tweeting that the Supreme Court's decision made one thing clear: "We need more Conservative justices on the US Supreme Court." Underlining his case, Pence added "#FourMoreYears."

Top pro-Trump religious conservatives noted pointedly that both justices he named to the high court dissented from Monday's decision, aligning with Pence in making the case that Trump should get another term in office to potentially tap more conservative nominees.

Advertisement

The Reverend Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and a member of Trump's Catholic voter outreach effort, said the president's "two appointees voted the right way" in supporting Louisiana's ability to require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

"Once again this ruling underscores the importance of elections," Pavone said in a statement. "We need a solid pro-life majority on the Supreme Court to uphold the rights of women and the unborn."

Johnnie Moore, an evangelical adviser to the Trump administration, said the decision could help motivate anti-abortion activists to vote to re-elect the president.

"Conservatives know they are on the one-yard-line," Moore tweeted. "Enthusiasm is already unprecedented, evangelical turnout will be too."

The Trump campaign also invoked the decision to appeal to voters in a statement from deputy communications director Ali Pardo.

"This case underscores the importance of re-electing President Trump, who has a record of appointing conservative judges, rather than Joe Biden, who will appoint radical, activist judges who will legislate from the courts," Pardo said.

Some right-leaning abortion foes — including at least four congressional Republicans — responded to the decision by criticising Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W Bush. Roberts concurred with the court's four more liberal justices while not signing onto their opinion in the case.

"Chief Justice Roberts is at it again with his political gamesmanship," Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted. "This time he has sided with abortion extremists who care more about providing abortion-on-demand than protecting women's health."

Advertisement

"Americans hoping for justice for women and unborn babies were let down again today by John Roberts," Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said in a statement.

"What's next, Chief Justice Roberts? Our Second Amendment rights?" Representative Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted.

Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley, a former Roberts clerk, tweeted that the decision was a "disaster" and "a big-time wake up call to religious conservatives," whom he urged to "make our voices heard".

But Roberts' move to stand apart from his more liberal colleagues, contextualising his vote as one to protect the court's past precedent, left other religious conservatives vowing to rededicate themselves to their fight to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established abortion rights.

"This case was about whether the state has the right to ensure that abortionists who take women's money also provide for their safety," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a prominent pro-Trump evangelical ally, said in a statement, adding that "I do look forward to the day when the Supreme Court will correct the gross injustice of the Roe v Wade decision that has led to the killing of tens of millions of unborn babies."

Russell Moore, president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, defended Louisiana's abortion law as "placing the most minimal restrictions possible on an abortion industry that insists on laissez-faire for itself and its profits."

"Nonetheless, we will continue to seek an America where vulnerable persons, including unborn children and their mothers, are seen as precious, not disposable," said Moore, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, said in a statement that Catholics would "grieve this decision" but would "continue to pray and fight for justice for mothers and children."

"We will not rest until the day when the Supreme Court corrects the grave injustice of Roe ... and recognises the constitutional right to life for unborn human beings," Naumann said.

O Carter Snead, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement that Roberts' positioning in the decision was "cold comfort" on an otherwise "sad day."

Support for rescinding Roe remains strong among evangelical Protestants. Sixty-one per cent of them said they wanted to see the court fully overturn the decision in a survey conducted last year by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. That survey found support for overturning Roe at 28 per cent among Catholics and 42 per cent among Protestants generally.

The court's abortion ruling on Monday follows its 6-3 decision earlier this month that found a central provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shields LGBT people from employment discrimination. Religious conservatives also openly lamented that decision, while noting that potential faith-based exemptions could be carved out.

- AP