In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a pro-life Louisiana state law from going into effect while awaiting the Court’s decision on whether to hear the challenge. The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, enacted in 2014 but blocked by courts in 2017, would require abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents to the measure claim Louisiana’s law places an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, while pro-lifers have said that having the same requirements as other ambulatory surgical centers is a common-sense measure that keeps women safe.
The Supreme Court’s decision means that the Court will likely hear the case, with a ruling expected mid-summer of 2020. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will represent the first significant challenge to Roe v. Wade and similar pro-abortion precedents since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Here is a link to the order and accompanying Kavanaugh opinion. https://t.co/9aJxiE3QTW. The other Justices did not write an explanation for their vote. The injunction terminates if the Supreme Court doesn’t later grant cert, but it almost certainly will.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) February 8, 2019
In granting the temporary stay, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four pro-abortion justices in a short, unsigned order with no accompanying opinion. Justice Kavanaugh wrote a dissent taking a middle position per the New York Times, and saying he would have preferred more information on the effects of the law, as there is conflict of opinion as to whether the doctors are or are not able to get the privileges. Kavanaugh suggested a 45-day trial of the law. If the doctors are, in fact, not able to obtain admitting privileges, Kavanaugh posited that they could apply for a new injunction.
In June of 2016, the court struck down a similar law in Texas because 8 out of 40 abortion facilities closed as doctors refused to comply with the law. However, the Fifth Circuit has ruled that this case differs from Texas as only one doctor in Louisiana is unable to gain privileges. T.J. Tu, senior counsel for U.S. litigation with the Center for Reproductive Rights, has posited that Louisiana hospitals will not grant privileges “since they don’t like to grant privileges to doctors who won’t use them.” The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the law will leave only one abortion facility in the state that “cannot possibly meet the needs of approximately 10,000 women” who seek abortion each year, according to NBC News. Louisiana currently has three abortion facilities with a total of four doctors that commit about 9,000 abortions per year.
In a brief, the state of Louisiana “urged the justices to stay out of the dispute and allow the law to go into effect,” per SCOTUSblog, and stated that “it did not plan to shut down abortion clinics overnight, as the providers had suggested. Instead, the state clarified, it ‘envisions a regulatory process that begins, logically, with collecting information from Louisiana’s abortion clinics and their doctors.'”
Benjamin Clapper of Louisiana Right to Life expressed cautious optimism despite the setback: “While we are disappointed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act will not go into law immediately, we do look forward to the potential of the law going into effect […] upon a ruling in Louisiana’s favor after full briefing on the merits. The abortion industry, over the past four decades, has fought against every common-sense health standard. This is just another example of the extreme lengths the abortion industry pursues to protect abortion-on-demand.”
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