Anticipation builds as Supreme Court sits on major abortion access case

Pro-choice activists hold signs in response to anti-abortion activists participating in the "March for Life," an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the US, outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 18, 2019.

(CNN)Since early January, the Supreme Court has been considering whether to take up an Indiana abortion access law that goes to the core of landmark opinions like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The law, signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence, has been blocked from going into effect. It has a provision that says that the state can prohibit abortion that is solely motivated by the race, sex or disability of the fetus and require abortion doctors to inform patients of the prohibition.
But so far, crickets from the high court.
    The court's docket reflects the case has been listed for the last eight closed-door conferences where the justices discuss pending petitions, including one held Friday morning.
    How the justices deal with the case could shed further light on a path forward for the newly solidified conservative majority that is facing a potential onslaught of similar petitions from emboldened conservative states and anti-abortion rights interest groups. The case also spotlights the tension that Chief Justice John Roberts faces as he balances his conservative jurisprudence with institutional concerns at the court.
    That tension was evident in February when a 5-4 court blocked a Louisiana law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the abortion is performed from going into effect. Roberts sided with the liberals on the bench to grant an emergency stay blocking the law while appeals continue.
    Roberts did not explain his reasoning in the unsigned order, but it is possible that he was moving gingerly because only three years ago the Court, before the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, struck down a similar law out of Texas.
    Kennedy was replaced last year by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and he dissented in the Louisiana case. Kavanaugh suggested the Court should allow the law to go into effect because the state had promised a 45 day "regulatory transition period" to determine how the law would impact clinics. He said after the transition period, if the doctors were unable to obtain admitting privileges they could come back to the high court to seek relief.
    Some believe that one reason that Roberts might have cast his vote with the liberals is because he wanted the case to come before the court on a non-emergency basis with plenty of time for the parties and the justices to consider the arguments and perhaps distinguish the Louisiana case from the Texas ruling.
    But that is speculation. Roberts has not spoken publicly on the matter.
    However, he dissented when the court struck down the Texas law in 2016.
    "What I hope Chief Justice Roberts recognizes is that the case is a real test of the Court's integrity and the rule of law," T.J. Tu of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who is lead counsel in the Louisiana case and plans to ask the court to consider the law on the merits f