Nasty personal insults are flying between the White House and the Kremlin even as staggeringly blunt rhetoric erupts in the administration’s first big talks with China called to lay down the law on Biden’s tough new policy toward the dominant Asian power.A remarkable day of intercontinental squabbling confirmed that US relations with China have plunged to their lowest point since President Richard Nixon’s pioneering mission to “open” the then-isolated communist state in the 1970s. US-Russia ties are, meanwhile, at their most difficult point since the fall of the Soviet Union.A simmering feud with Russia escalated when Biden blasted Vladimir Putin as a “killer” in an interview this week, promoting the stung Russian strongman and his aides to brand the new US commander-in-chief old and senile.In Alaska, meanwhile, there were extraordinary exchanges in front of the press between US and Chinese officials on Thursday.Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of “deep concern” he had picked up about China’s behavior during a tour of Asia and condemned China for breaking rules that keep at bay a “a more violent world.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan defended the US from Chinese critiques by saying it had “secret sauce” that helped it mend its imperfections — in a clear slam of China’s authoritarian state rule.China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi then further shattered the normally choking protocol of US-China talks by asking: “Is that the way that you had hoped to conduct this dialogue? Well, I think we thought too well of the US.”The exchanges — the diplomatic equivalent of a head-to-head quarrel that will reverberate across the Pacific — prompted a senior US official to accuse the Chinese of arriving “intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance.”The most alarming feature of the showdown is how quickly it ramped up, with neither side willing to back down and each seeking to get the upper hand and have the last word in front of the cameras. This cycle of escalation will worry experts who fear that one of the many flashpoints between the rivals — including over Taiwan or China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea — could quickly erupt into an international crisis.Given the brittle global situation, an attempt by a new American President to flex power in such an overt manner against two nuclear rivals might seem rash. But if anything, Biden is reacting to a strategic calculus that has shifted since he served as vice president in the Obama administration, that sought to reset relations with Russia and based its China policy on managing the peaceful rise of the coming economic power in the east.Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertive, nationalist, authoritarianism has since transformed China’s global outlook and willingness to project strength. It is now locked in a regional and increasingly global competition with Washington.While lacking the strategic weight of the former Soviet Union, Moscow has made undermining US influence and internal political cohesion a centerpiece of its global strategy — witnessed by its meddling in two US elections.It’s clear that Biden’s tough talk, boasting about a coming US economic recovery and declarations that “America is back,” is designed to undercut the shared view in Moscow and Beijing that the US is gravely weakened by two decades getting into and out of the Middle East, its paralyzing political divides and one of the world’s worst pandemic responses.Biden’s insults for Putin and efforts to get other major Pacific powers like India, Japan, Australia and South Korea on side before meeting China send another message: that the chaotic foreign policy in which former President Donald Trump fawned over autocrats in Moscow and Beijing, ignored allies and undermined his administration’s sometimes tough strategy is on history’s trash heap.Russian ex-President mocks Biden’s age Once Cold War rivals are now trading hot rhetoric.Biden agreed with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this week that Putin was a “killer” — an extraordinary breach of protocol given that Russia remains a proud world power. He also warned the Russian leader would “pay a price” after US intelligence agencies concluded this week that he oversaw an effort to help Trump and harm Biden in 2020. With the menacing ambiguity of a mafiosi, Putin wished Biden “good health” in response and challenged him to test his faculties in an online debate. In case anyone missed the point, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, once seen as the great hope of reset US-Russia ties in the Obama era, responded with a direct insult referring to Biden’s age as the oldest American president.”It seems that time hasn’t been kind to him. … I can only quote Freud: ‘Nothing in life is more expensive than illness and stupidity,'” Medvedev said, according to the official TASS news agency. Not for the first time, attacks on Biden — and his age — by Russia and Trump seemed almost identical.Yuval Weber, a global fellow with the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, said Biden was sending domestic and political messages with his willingness to take on Putin so directly.”I don’t think there is any way to more aggressively and markedly differentiate himself from President Trump,” Weber said.”What Biden was able to do is to say to the US domestic audience as well as to Putin that there is a very different sheriff in town.”There is, of course, a risk that personal spats between Washington and Moscow offer Putin the platform alongside the US President that he craves and thinks is Russia’s right as a great power. It’s hardly ideal when the men whose fingers are on the world’s two most powerful nuclear buttons back themselves into rhetorical corners. Still, Biden and Putin are both seasoned leaders who are well aware of the strategic risks of what was once a superpower showdown.And Biden’s interview with ABC News also reflected the pragmatism underlying US-Russia policy. The President indicated he was willing to respond to Putin’s macho approach while finding areas of common interest when they arise. He mentioned the renewal of the new START nuclear treaty in the early weeks of his administration. “That’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange,” he said.In reality, the US is in a stronger relative position with Russia than with China, a far more powerful adversary. And the areas of common goals with Russia are limited in what is an overwhelmingly adversarial relationship.Washington recently accused Russia’s SVR foreign spy agency of masterminding the massive and vast “Solar Winds” hack on US private companies and several top government departments. Washington has spoken out strongly in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Russian state and was imprisoned on his recent return to the country. Biden’s team also opposes Moscow’s annexation and continued occupation of Crimea. And it has pledged to reinvigorate the NATO alliance — which was frequently denigrated by Trump and has long been a key instrument of US global power.’Adversarial when it must be’Meetings between American and Chinese diplomats never publicly display the unpleasant scenes that unfolded in Alaska, which reflect the soaring tensions between a bullish China and an America defending its global primacy.Things got off to a bad start after US officials made clear the talks were solely aimed at putting China on notice that Biden plans to cement the Trump team’s shift from seeking cooperation with Beijing to open competition.”Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be. And we will engage China from a position of strength,” Blinken said this month.Washington this week clamped sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland officials over the crackdown on democracy in the former British colony. In another step that angered Beijing, the US Commerce Department issued subpoenas on multiple Chinese tech companies to see if they posed a national security risk in the United States.There has been plenty of buzz in the foreign policy world about the possibility of a new Cold War between the US and China. If anything, that 20th century term fails to encapsulate the breadth of the contested issues and the fact that unlike the Soviet Union, the rising Asian power is embedded in the global economy.US-China disputes on Taiwan, Hong Kong, repression of Uyghur Muslims, South China Sea sovereignty, espionage and the theft of US intellectual property are vast. And Xi’s China wields an industrial base and supply chains that are crucial to Western economies. Advanced technology also gives Beijing backdoors into the modern infrastructure of its potential enemies, meaning that any new Cold War will likely take place in cyberspace.Reflecting its growing might, senior officials in the Xi era are far more willing to rebuke Washington than in nearly half a century of US-China relations.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian bristled at a US-Japan joint statement this week, part of an effort by the Biden administration to create a united front of allies as a counter to China’s economic, strategic and military power designed to force Beijing to accept international rules that China rejects as an attempt to curtail its power.”The international community will have a fair judgment on who is the biggest threat to world peace,” Zhao said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.One lesson of US foreign policy in recent decades is that plans hatched in Washington often don’t survive contact with the outside world. So Biden’s plan comes with some risk. A more assertive US approach could play into Xi’s nationalistic worldview and, if events in Alaska are any guide, has already caused Beijing to be even more aggressive. A tense overall relationship could scupper US hopes to forge agreements with China on combating climate change at a global summit in Scotland this year. And there is no certainty that US allies will buy into the Biden strategy. Asian nations must live with the reality of China’s growing power in their own strategic neighborhoods. Many doubt the US attention span after various pivots toward and away from Asia in recent decades. And it is far from clear that the European Union wants to pick between the US and China — and sent a signal to that effect by signing a trade deal with Beijing just before Biden took office.
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The federal government has more than 14,000 migrant children in its custody, administration officials said Thursday, even as they insist that what is happening on the southern border does not constitute a crisis.The growing number of unaccompanied children at the border has overwhelmed resources, which had already been strained as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, spurring officials to seek out facilities to accommodate children, including the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. The center — one of the largest in the country and located in downtown Dallas — has been transformed into an emergency intake site for more than 2,000 children. The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that 200 children had arrived Wednesday.Early Thursday morning, dozens of people wearing American Red Cross vests also trickled into the building. “In response to a recent surge of young people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border without parents or guardians, the American Red Cross has been asked to temporarily support (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to ensure these unaccompanied children have a safe place to stay,” the American Red Cross said in a statement. Migrant children transferred to the center will be provided games and books, according to a memo sent to local organizations by Catholic Charities Dallas, which is involved in the effort. The memo, obtained by CNN, says the goal is to have most of them at the center for no more than five days. FEMA sent 3,000 cots, 6,000 blankets and 36,000 liters of water to the center, according to an agency official. The site has been outfitted to include sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry and access to medical services, HHS said in a statement. “This approach will help decrease overcrowding at (Customs and Border Protection) facilities and ensure children are moved into ORR shelters, where children receive educational, medical, mental health, and recreational services until they can be unified with families or sponsors without undue delay,” the department said in a statement.Thousands of children have crossed the US-Mexico border alone in recent months, leaving many border facilities over capacity. Administration officials said Thursday that there were more than 9,500 children in HHS custody and roughly 4,500 with Customs and Border Protection. That represents an increase from earlier this week.More than 500 unaccompanied migrant children have been in US Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, CNN has learned, marking yet another jump in the number of children staying in custody longer than US law permits. The average time in custody for unaccompanied children has increased to more than 130 hours, exceeding the 72-hour limit. The administration officials said Thursday that most adult migrants and migrant families were being expelled. But they acknowledged there were limitations on Mexico’s ability to take in migrants, particularly those with young children. And they repeated that the Biden administration would not expel unaccompanied minors.Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday that the border facility he had recently visited was “crowded.” “It’s crowded, and remember, we’re dealing with a pandemic. And so we’re dealing with restrictions on physical distancing and the like, but the mattresses, the blankets are actually selectively chosen so that they’re safest for the children,” he told “CBS This Morning.””What we don’t want to do is have a, maybe a traditional mattress with fabric, because it breeds the lice and other conditions,” he said, adding that a “Border Patrol station is no place for a child.” The administration’s focus now is on expanding capacity at its facilities and speeding up the processing of unaccompanied children that would allow them to move out of the government’s care more quickly, officials said Thursday.That includes altering Covid protocols in ways that would increase the number of people allowed inside each facility, opening new facilities and paying for children’s flights or transportation to be reunited with family members or guardians.In Dallas, local immigration attorneys are on standby to provide legal assistance to children arriving at the center, said Michelle L. Saenz-Rodriguez, an immigration attorney based in the city. “We have dozens of immigration attorneys chomping at the bit,” she told CNN. FEMA officials said the Dallas facility, which can hold up to 2,300 people, is currently sheltering 200 boys between the ages of 15 and 17. A Red Cross spokesperson said the facility is being staffed with dozens of volunteers around the clock, and more migrants were expected to arrive Thursday evening. Each migrant is tested for Covid-19 before departing Border Patrol facilities for HHS shelters, FEMA said.At a temporary shelter facility for children in Midland, Texas, FEMA officials said 481 unaccompanied boys between the ages of 15 and 17 were also being housed. That facility can hold up to 700 people.CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.
Recall leaders said Wednesday night that they have well exceeded that target, turning in more than 2.1 million signature petitions to county officials. But it’s now up to those officials, who have until April 29 to finish verifying the signatures and then report their results to the California secretary of state.Here are some common questions about how the next few weeks could play out:Q: How likely is it that the recall will qualify for the ballot?A: At this point it looks pretty likely. Newsom’s sudden blitz of media interviews — and his vow to fight the recall — underscore that his team is taking the recall threat very seriously. The recall proponents have organized in all of California’s counties, and they collected more than 2 million signatures, so they would have a cushion if some signatures were duplicates or were deemed invalid for other reasons. And so far, the signature validity rate is very high — yet another reason it’s likely to qualify. The latest report from the secretary of state in early February showed that of the signatures checked by county officials so far, 83.7% were valid. The recall organizers also hired a third-party firm to verify signatures before they were submitted, eliminating many duplicates on the front end.Q: If it qualifies, how soon would the recall land on the ballot?A: No one has a good answer to that yet, because there are a lot of procedural steps that must be completed before the lieutenant governor would officially call the recall election. But sources on both sides of the recall expect it to land on the ballot sometime between August and December. First though, there’s an arcane series of next steps. After county election officials finish verifying signatures by the end of April, the secretary of state has until May to report back to the counties about whether the recall has qualified. After that, any voter who signed a recall petition has 30 business days to reconsider and withdraw their signature. Then county officials conduct a second verification process to determine whether there are still enough signatures. If the recall proceeds, the California Department of Finance and the secretary of state come up with a cost estimate that is sent to the chair of the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Newsom, Lt. Gov Eleni Kounalakis and Secretary of State Shirley Weber. The budget committee has 30 business days to review the estimate. After final signoff from Weber, Kounalakis would be required to set a date for a recall election that is no earlier than 60 days from that point and no later than 80 days.Q: What would voters see on the ballot if qualifies?A: The state’s voters will be asked two questions. First, do they want to vote “yes” or “no” on recalling Newsom. And two, who should replace him — a question that is likely to be followed by a very long list of names, just as it did in 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, replaced former California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat.Q: Can Newsom enter his own name in the running for question No. 2 as a backup plan?A: No. He’s banned from doing so under state election law.Q: Newsom was elected in 2018 with nearly 62% of the vote in one of the most liberal states in the country. How did he end up in this predicament?A: This is actually the sixth time that Newsom’s opponents have tried to recall him, which demonstrates the polarized climate in America, even in a blue state like California. Early on, recall proponents were most focused on their ideological differences with the governor. The recall petition, which was written before the pandemic began, argues that Newsom failed to adequately address the state’s high taxes, immigration, widespread homelessness, lack of affordable housing and wildfires, among other complaints. But the signature gathering collided last summer with anger about the pandemic, attracting a broader group of Californians who were angry about Newsom’s restrictive approach to curbing the virus.Q: Did Newsom take a more restrictive approach to managing the pandemic than other governors? Why has so much anger been directed at him?A: Definitely. He instituted the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order last March and then another set of regional stay-at-home orders in early December last year — based on intensive care unit capacity in different regions of the state. Earlier, he angered some residents in Orange County by temporarily shutting down beaches that got too crowded. Newsom was also repeatedly sued by advocates for religious freedom because of his early restrictions on church services, and he lost some of those cases at the Supreme Court. The recall has also drawn a broader base of support, in part, because so many business owners believed Newsom’s restrictions were economically crippling and sometimes arbitrary. West Coast school districts have also been slow to open, despite Newsom’s efforts to accelerate reopenings. Newsom became the most visible target for all of that anger.Q: Why was his visit to French Laundry in Napa Valley such a big deal?A: There’s nothing voters hate more than hypocrisy from their leaders. And to his opponents, Newsom looked both hypocritical and elitist when he attended the 50th birthday dinner of a longtime friend, who is a lobbyist, at the Michelin-starred French Laundry last November. At the time, he was urging residents to stay home and avoid social gatherings with people outside their household. To a lot of Californians who were already frustrated with the restrictions, it appeared that Newsom was playing by a different set of rules when he visited the restaurant. He has apologized repeatedly, including during a recent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper who bluntly asked him: “What were you thinking?” Newsom said, “I haven’t made a mistake like that before or since.”Q: Who’s behind the recall effort?A: The lead proponent of the recall is a retired county sheriff’s office sergeant named Orrin Heatlie, who was joined by 124 others in submitting the petition. His grassroots group, California Patriot Coalition — Recall Governor Newsom, focused heavily on signature gathering and worked closely with another group called Rescue California…Recall Gavin Newsom, which raised a considerable amount of money for the effort. The second group included California GOP heavy-hitters including longtime consultant Anne Dunsmore and former chairman of the California Republican Party Tom Del Beccaro. Both the California State Republican Party and the Republican National Committee made major donations to help the effort. Other top funders include Orange County entrepreneur John Kruger, real estate developer Geoff Palmer and venture capitalist Douglas Leone.Q: What are the key metrics to watch to determine whether the recall will succeed or fail?A: It’s important to remember that Democrats now outnumber Republicans by nearly two-to-one, giving Newsom a built in advantage at the ballot box — if he can get Democrats to turn out and defend him. After the holidays, when anger about the pandemic in California was at a boiling point, about 52% of likely California voters approved of Newsom’s job performance in a poll from Public Policy Institute of California (a dip from 64% last May). But in order for a recall to proceed, 50% of California voters must vote for it. In that poll released in February, only 43% of likely voters disapproved of Newsom and that number may improve as more people get vaccinated and the virus recedes. By comparison, some 7 in 10 voters disapproved of Davis shortly before he was recalled with 55% of the vote.Q: If the recall qualifies, who should we expect to run to replace Newsom?A: There are likely to be more than 100 names on that list — if not hundreds of names — because the requirements for getting on the ballot are not expected to be very difficult to meet. The most prominent Republicans in the mix are Newsom’s former opponent, John H. Cox, whom Newsom defeated by about 24 points in 2018, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence to former President Donald Trump, also teased a potential run during a recent appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, which could excite Trump voters in California. (Both Cox and Faulconer plan to challenge Newsom when he’s up for reelection in 2022). Given the inexpensive filing fee and the expected low bar for entry, the list could become a pretty wild cast of characters.Q: What is Newsom doing to stop the recall?A: For starters, after largely shrugging it off and focusing on his duties as governor, he’s now pivoted to a more engaged posture — doing a series of press interviews to trying to define his opponents. Democrats launched a new effort — Stop the Republican Recall — the day before signatures were due earlier this week, and Newsom has referred to the recall proponents as “anti-mask and anti-vax extremists” and “pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic.” President Joe Biden opposes the recall, along with many California Democrats in Washington. As Newsom focuses on getting Californians vaccinated in the coming months, expect to see many prominent Golden State Democrats forcefully defending his record as governor as they work to redefine his image. Newsom’s current strategy was encapsulated by his March 15 tweet: “I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall — but I will fight it.”
The aims of individual justices, based on their recent writings, range from reversing Roe v. Wade to forbidding clinics from challenging restrictions on behalf of women to relaxing the standard that states must meet to limit women’s access to the procedure. “Our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control,” Justice Clarence Thomas has written. He is the court’s most consistent critic of abortion-rights rulings dating to the 1973 Roe v. Wade, which made the procedure legal nationwide. Justice Neil Gorsuch has separately complained that justices’ standards are muddled and said last year, in a “highly politicized and contentious arena … we have lost our way.” Justice Samuel Alito has attacked decades-old precedent that allows physicians and other third parties to sue states over regulations that might impinge on a pregnant woman’s rights. His position would reduce challenges to state abortion laws. New internal tensions in the age-old controversy have emerged, as the six Republican-appointed justices on the right wing diverge on curtailing precedent and more sharply clash with the court’s three remaining Democratic-appointed liberals. The justices could move a step closer to their next chapter as they meet privately on Friday to consider whether to take up Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Then again, the newly reconfigured court may want to wait to take any dramatic action on abortion. Multiple related laws are headed its way as states continue to adopt new prohibitions, including the near-total Arkansas abortion ban passed earlier this month with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. While the number of abortions nationwide has declined over the decades, culturally and religiously fraught state restrictions, and subsequent litigation, have not diminished. Conflicts have deepened on the increasingly conservative Supreme Court. Former President Donald Trump, who named three new justices, had vowed to appoint judges who opposed Roe v. Wade. If the justices were to take up a 15-week abortion ban and consider reversing decades-old precedent, it would intensify national divisions. Even if the justices ultimately deny the Mississippi petition, the case could give individual justices a chance to issue statements relative to the denial, laying out their arguments for future rollbacks of reproductive rights. Mississippi officials have appealed a US appellate court ruling that invalidated the 15-week ban because Supreme Court precedent prevents prohibitions on pre-viability abortions, that is, when the fetus would be unable to live outside the womb. Referring to the high court’s traditional balancing of interests, the appellate court wrote, “Until viability, it is for the woman, not the state, to weigh any risks to maternal health and to consider personal values and beliefs in deciding whether to have an abortion.” The pending case from Mississippi already reveals signs of conflict among the justices: They have considered but then postponed action on the dispute for nearly six months, listing it for discussion in private sessions yet offering no word on whether they would reject it, as they have similar cases of early-pregnancy abortion bans, or schedule the controversy for oral argument and decision. Disputes in this area of the law nearly always come down to the vote of a single justice and generate tensions all around. “In the country, people have very strong feelings,” liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said during oral arguments in a 2020 Louisiana abortion case, “and a lot of people morally think it’s wrong and a lot of people morally think the opposite is wrong.” On the current bench, Justices Thomas, 72, Alito, 70, and Gorsuch, 53, have staked out relatively firm ground. Roberts, 66, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, 56, have voted to ease the legal test covering state regulation of abortion and sent mixed signals on overruling core precedent. The court’s new, sixth conservative, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, 49, has yet to write on an abortion case. Before joining the bench, she expressed skepticism for reproductive rights. During her confirmation hearing in October, then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, declared of Barrett, a committed Catholic, “This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who’s unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology.” Barrett declined in testimony to express her views and said she could not “pre-commit” on the subject of abortion. On the left side of the bench, Justices Breyer, 82, Sonia Sotomayor, 66, and Elena Kagan, 60, have consistently voted to reaffirm abortion rights and diminish the power of states to restrict women’s access to the procedure. In urging the justices to hear Mississippi’s appeal of the lower court ruling, state Attorney General Lynn Fitch has asked the court to clarify its standard, to disallow clinic lawsuits on behalf of women and to erase the dividing line for restrictions based on the viability of the fetus. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, represented by lawyers from the national Center for Reproductive Rights, countered that for nearly 50 years the Supreme Court has said states may not prevent a woman from ending her pregnancy before the fetus would be able to survive outside her body. “Before viability,” they wrote, “the State’s interests, whatever they may be, cannot override a pregnant person’s interests in their liberty and autonomy over their own body.” Where Alito and Thomas want the court to go In the original abortion touchstone, Roe v. Wade, the justices declared that women have a constitutional right to privacy that covers the decision to end a pregnancy. Current standards trace to a 1992 landmark, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, when the court reaffirmed Roe’s declaration that women have a right to abortion before viability, which the justices placed at 23-24 weeks, and forbade government from putting an “undue burden” on the right. Thomas has been most provocative in urging his colleagues to reconsider those decisions. “Roe is grievously wrong for many reasons,” he wrote in a dissenting opinion when the court in 2020 struck down a Louisiana abortion regulation, “but the most fundamental is that its core holding — that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child — finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment.” RELATED: Justice Clarence Thomas says Roe decision doesn’t have ‘shred’ of constitutional supportIn separate 2019 cases, he asserted, “From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics” and called the “undue burden” standard from the 1992 Casey decision “an aberration of constitutional law” and “demonstrably erroneous.” Alito has focused on third-party legal standing, that is, the ability of a party to assert a right on behalf of another with shared interests. He says that creates conflicts of interest between abortion providers and the women who seek their services; abortion-rights advocates counter that clinics are better positioned to vindicate rights than women who are pregnant and may be especially vulnerable to harassment. In the Louisiana controversy over credentialing requirements for physicians who perform abortions, Alito wrote: “The idea that a regulated party can invoke the right of a third party for the purpose of attacking legislation enacted to protect the third party is stunning. Given the apparent conflict of interest, that concept would be rejected out of hand in a case not involving abortion.” Alito was joined in that portion of his opinion by Thomas and Gorsuch. In the same case — June Medical Services v. Russo — Gorsuch wrote that the court owed greater deference to state legislators. He also criticized a balancing test used by a court majority in a 2016 abortion case and invoked by liberals in 2020 as “little more than the judicial version of a hunter’s stew: Throw in anything that looks interesting, stir, and season to taste.” That test, detailed in a 2016 case that struck down a Texas law, requires judges to balance the health benefits that a regulation might offer pregnant women with its potential burden on their right to an abortion. The 2020 Louisiana case involved a physician restriction similar to the Texas measure. Based on the 2016 case, Roberts provided the fifth vote to liberals to invalidate the Louisiana version. But he, like his conservative brethren, found the standard from the 2016 case flawed. (He declined to sign the Breyer opinion that was joined by Sotomayor, Kagan and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) Roberts’ narrower approach would give greater discretion to state legislators and enhance their ability to justify abortion restrictions. Referring to the 1992 Supreme Court milestone that set out standards, Roberts wrote in the 2020 case, “Nothing about Casey suggested that a weighing of costs and benefits of an abortion regulation was a job for the court.” And the chief justice, no longer the swing vote on abortion yet still influential, added that trying to do so “would require us to act as legislators, not judges.”