Supreme Court stops Louisiana abortion law from being implemented

Supreme Court stops Louisiana abortion law from being implemented”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal members in temporarily blocking a Louisiana law that would have closed some of the few remaining abortion clinics in the state.

The 2014 law required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. But it seems likely the full court will now grant the case a full briefing and review, and perhaps reexamine its earlier decision, which was made by a very different Supreme Court. As chief justice, the federal judiciary's highest-ranking judge, Roberts presides over oral arguments in cases before the court and leads private meetings among the justices. They said that it was not medically necessary, abortion is a safe procedure, and in fact the law would leave only one provider in the state. Similarly, the 5th Circuit acknowledged that it did not have any evidence that the Louisiana admitting-privileges requirement would help the health or safety of any women, even though it created a burden on providers and their patients.

Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint "pro-life" justices - judges who are opposed to abortion rights - and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.

Kavanaugh's dissent proves this point. "If a law does not amount to an unconstitutional burden unless it does something as dramatic as close 20 clinics in a geographic area as large as Texas, nearly every law would be constitutional".

The one conservative who did not vote to ignore SCOTUS precedent is the only conservative on the court who you could say cares more about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court than conservative ideology.

The majority, as is custom, did not give a reason for granting the stay. In that dissent, Kavanaugh said that the law should be allowed to go into effect so its true impact can be measured. "The 5th Circuit previously examined the facts and concluded Louisiana's law does not constitute a burden and is a reasonable step to protect women".

Still, Kavanaugh could have said nothing, like the other three justices in the minority.

Roberts actually voted against the court's 2016 Hellerstedt decision that struck down a Texas law requiring admitting privileges that are exactly the same as those in Louisiana. As such, they warn that Act 620 is effectively a stealth measure to eliminate abortion in Louisiana. The difference between then and now is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the decisive fifth vote in the 2016 Texas case, retired last June and has now been replaced by Trump appointee Kavanaugh.

If the law took effect and the doctors couldn't obtain admitting privileges during the transition period, then the doctors could file a complaint or motion for preliminary injunction. Does Thursday's vote signal that Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt is more enduring as a precedent than its mere two and a half years might suggest? That will come later, when the Court decides if it will take the case.

DeGravelles further found that were the Louisiana law allowed to go into effect, only one clinic and one doctor in the state would be qualified to perform abortions.

At the same time, the threat to women's reproductive rights has pushed some liberal states to expand rights to abortion.

"By construing "undue burden" only as applied to specific doctors (and thus women), Justice Kavanaugh's logic would allow all kinds of pointless regulations, as long as doctors could somehow comply with them", Michaelson notes.

And because the order isn't a decision on the merits of the Louisiana law, it's not a true test of Whole Woman's Health's strength as precedent.

The Supreme Court is now likely to take up the clinic's appeal of a lower court ruling allowing the law, with a decision on the merits possible in 2020, just months before the USA presidential election.

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