A deeply divided Supreme Court has ruled to prevent Louisiana from protecting women who seek abortions from an industry in which medical competency and cleanliness are in short supply.

Monday’s 5-4 decision in June Medical Services v. Russo is a disappointing blow against a now 47-year campaign to preserve and protect every life under the law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the court’s liberals, said that the court was merely following the legal precedent it set in its 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, which struck down a Texas requirement that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital — even though Roberts dissented in that case four years ago.

Roberts’s commitment to precedent appears to be curiously selective, especially since the composition of the Supreme Court was different in 2016. By Roberts’s standard of stare decisis, the horrific Dred Scott decision, which upheld slavery, would still be the law of the land.

The Louisiana Legislature was rightly concerned that women seeking abortions were at risk from underqualified medical professionals operating in unsanitary settings. During its investigation of the abortion industry, the legislature found, for example, that background checks for medical personnel were not even performed at local facilities. In one case, a clinic hired an ophthalmologist and a radiologist to perform abortions.

Previously, Louisiana clinics had been cited for a host of offenses, including improper administration of intravenous medications and gas, failure to document patients’ physical examinations, administration of anesthesia by employees who were not qualified, inaccurate reporting of abortion procedures to the state, and “irregularity” in calculation of medication dosages, among other violations.

Following its investigation of the facts, the legislature passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (aka Act 620). The law requires abortionists to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Besides ensuring a continuity of care should a woman suffer complications from an abortion, a hospital’s procedures for granting admitting privileges offer some sort of minimum guarantee that the abortionist is a qualified doctor.

The abortion industry responded by suing, claiming that such basic regulations would interfere with a “woman’s right to choose.”

Apparently lost on the high court’s majority is the irony that the entity challenging this law was not a woman or group of women denied abortions, but the very abortion industry charged with lax standards for patient safety. In legal terms, the question is whether abortionists have “standing” (i.e., the legal ability to bring a lawsuit) in these types of cases. According to Roberts and his four associates, they somehow do.

The adage of “the fox guarding the henhouse” could not be more appropriate here.

In the 2016 case, which was decided before Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the high court, the Texas law was struck down as creating an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. It was a 5-3 decision (oral arguments occurred after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death but before Gorsuch was confirmed), with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the liberal wing of the court in deciding against the Texas law.

But that decision was based on the specific facts concerning Texas’s vast size and driving distances. The Supreme Court in Hellerstedt never suggested or held that admitting privilege requirements were per se unconstitutional. And Louisiana’s case is based on evidence that its abortionists were underqualified and providing substandard medical care, a much different factual situation.

Not only does abortion end the life of an innocent baby, but it also can and does harm women, both physically and emotionally. If this were about any other industry but abortion, the courts would not hesitate to approve a state’s attempt to protect its citizens from harm.

Tragically, buoyed by this unfortunate decision, the scourge of abortion continues unabated in the Pelican State, leading to continued loss of life for the unborn and the further endangerment of women.

But the Supreme Court does not dictate the heart of man. Like the long and wearisome quest to emancipate black Americans, those of us who oppose abortion will continue our campaign for dignity and respect for all human life.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family.