Supreme Court Blocks Law Regulating Louisiana Abortion Doctors


The law at issue, Act 620, would require any physician providing abortion services in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, joined the court's so-called "liberal bloc" of four justices appointed by Democratic presidents to block the law. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined the court's newest member, Brett Kavanaugh, in a four-page dissent. The Supreme Court said in the Texas case that neither was needed to protect women's health and that both requirements imposed "a substantial burden" on a woman's right to abortion.

With the law set to go into effect Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights requested an emergency halt February 1, which the Supreme Court agreed to, to allow for deliberations.

Roberts may have been influenced by the claim by lower court judges who had dissented in the Louisiana case, arguing that the law had been upheld by their colleagues in defiance of the precedent that the Supreme Court had set in 2016 in ruling the Texas law unconstitutional. "And in that circumstance, the Louisiana law as applied would not impose an undue burden under Whole Woman's Health", Kavanaugh wrote. That case involves an IN law that was part of Mike Pence's governorship that has two pertinent parts - one regulating what the law describes as the dignified disposal of fetal remains, another banning what lawmakers describe as eugenic abortions, either abortions IN cases, for example, of Down syndrome. The best way to find out which prediction was right, he added, would be to let the law take effect. IN this week asked the Supreme Court to hear another abortion case concerning a law to require fetal ultrasounds before abortions take place.

The court, of course, could accept the Louisiana case for review next term, reopening the abortion debate, and perhaps even entertaining the possibility of reversing Roe. But even before yesterday's decision, everybody widely expected him to be the new swing vote on abortion.

Michaelson explained that if the law had been upheld, it would have a domino effect by opening the door for more restrictive laws in other states. Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights, the advocacy organization representing the plaintiffs challenging the law, initially asked the Roberts Court to stay, or pause, the Fifth Circuit decision while they filed their cert petition asking the Court to consider taking the case.

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In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. He said those doctors would need to make a "good faith effort" to demonstrate that the law hinders abortion access.

A key issue before the Justices will be whether the majority of that appeals court - the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit - failed to follow the legal standard that the Supreme Court used in ruling against the Texas law on hospital privileges for abortion doctors. Many were created to present a direct challenge to Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion. That decision, and the subsequent refusal to hear it en banc, is a flawless example of the courts going off on its own to advance a political agenda-in this case, an anti-choice one.

If Louisiana's law is allowed to stand it will have an impact far beyond Louisiana. There are justices on the court, like Brett Kavanaugh who want the anti-abortion law to go into effect - which means there's a long road ahead to prohibit the controversial 2014 law from permanently passing.

Critics argued the law provided no real medical benefit to patients and said abortion providers often struggled to secure admitting privileges as a result of local hospitals' opposition to abortion. "It sets the stage for a full review that could go either way".

The high court has now agreed to grant that pause in the litigation, but it could still refuse to hear the case and leave the lower court decision in place.