Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion law

Ruben Hill
June 29, 2020

The United States 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.

In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal judges to rule that Louisiana's efforts to restrict access to abortion was unconstitutional. Roberts Jr. joined with liberals in supporting the outcome.

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

In 2016, the supreme court handed down a decision on an identical law out of Texas, called Whole Woman's Health v Hellerstedt, ruling it unconstitutional. Women who lived outside the state's major cities would be forced to travel hundreds of miles to find an open clinic.

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 risky".

It's also a comfort to liberals who feared that the Court had irreparably been yanked ideologically to the right with the additions of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

In bringing the case to the Supreme Court, Louisiana added another challenge on, questioning what's called "third-party standing", which means that a third party - like an abortion provider - is allowed to argue on behalf of the person actually impacted - a patient.

In an ironic turn, Roberts concurred with the Louisiana decision due to the precedent established by the Texas decision - which he dissented from. "Therefore Louisiana's law can not stand under our precedents". But he says he switched his position to honor the precedent.

"There is no reason to think that a law requiring admitting privileges will necessarily have the same effect in every state", he said, though the Court's plurality this time found that the Louisiana law did, like the Texas one, represent an obstacle to women seeking abortions.

The court heard arguments in March in the Louisiana clinic case fully aware that a dozen states have enacted limited or total bans on abortion. All those laws on hold.

"Under principles of stare decisis, I agree with the plurality that the determination in Whole Woman's Health that Texas's law imposed a substantial obstacle requires the same determination about Louisiana's law", he wrote.

Abortion rights lawyers called the rule a sham and a deceptive scheme created to shut down already embattled abortion clinics. Admitting privileges can be hard for abortion providers to obtain as hospitals do not want to be associated with them due to the stigma and as abortion is a statistically safe procedure, requiring extremely limited numbers of patients to have to go to hospitals for care. And because abortion remains controversial, many hospitals, and especially in small towns and rural areas, are wary of having an affiliation with a doctor who performs abortions.

"Trap" laws, or "targeted regulation of abortion providers", are measures often passed under the guise of safety, but provide little or no medical benefits for women.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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