Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion clinic law

  • Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion clinic law

Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion clinic law

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

A concurrence by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. provided the fifth vote to strike down the Louisiana law Monday, which requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The decision comes after a spring in which eight states sought to heavily restrict abortions as "elective" procedures during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In his written opinion accompanying the ruling, Roberts referenced a near identical Texas law, which the court ruled unconstitutional in 2016.

The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. "Therefore Louisiana's law can not stand under our precedent", he said.

This is the first major abortion case ruling from the Supreme Court during the Trump presidency.

The Court found that that "the law offers no significant health benefit" and that it will "make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the State's asserted interests in promoting women's health and safety". However, they are highly effective at shuttering clinics, which perform the majority of America's abortions. The case was June Medical Center vs. Russo.

The law required doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital "not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced" in order to perform abortions. These agreements, called "admitting privileges", are extremely hard to obtain and a breadth of research has shown they provide no medical benefit. That would have more than tripled the average distance women in the region would have to travel to access abortion services, and would disproportionately impact low-income women of color, according to research in the journal Contraception. "We consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional".

Physicians for reproductive health, a national advocacy organization, said: "This is great news and affirms what we know to be true. medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care are unlawful and unsafe".

In fact, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled, in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, that a almost identical hospital admitting privileges law out of Texas caused an "undue burden" on patients seeking abortions after it caused roughly half of clinics in the state to shut down.

Justice Samuel Alito argued that Roberts was wrong in his application of stare decisis because the Louisiana and Texas laws are actually different. "Here Roberts switched places because, he says, the rule of precedent requires that we honor the decision of a couple of years ago even though I disagreed with it at the time".

Breyer said that the state had made the "unmistakable concession" of waiving the argument in exchange for a "quick decision" from the District Court. Indeed, one of the main selling points of President Donald Trump's campaign was new justices to overturn Roe. But he retired in 2018 and was replaced by the more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.