The USSu SupremeCourtd defended the right to abortion in a major decision on Monday by striking down a Louisiana law that restricts doctors who perform the procedure and calls for anti-abortion proposals.
The 5-4 ruling, with Conservative Justice John Roberts joining the four Liberal justices in the majority, represented a victory for Shreveport-based abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women in its challenge to the 2014 law. The measure required that doctors who perform abortions have a sometimes difficult to get formal affiliation called “concession privileges” at a hospital within 48 miles of the clinic.
Two of the three clinics performing abortions in Louisiana, a state of about 4.6 million people, would have had to close if the law had come into effect, according to lawyers for Hope Medical Group.
President Donald Trump’s administration supported Louisiana in the case. Defenders against abortion had hoped that SupremeCourt, with its 5-4 conservative majority, would be willing to allow abortion restrictions like those followed by Louisiana and other conservative states.
“Today’s decision is a bitter disappointment,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.
The decision, authored by Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, marked the second time in four years that was opposed to a claim of “recognition privileges”.
In 2016, the court abolished a Republican-backed Texas law that prescribed to recognize privileges and required clinics to have costly facilities of hospital quality, and found that the restrictions represented an unauthorized “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion. The two teams, Breyer wrote, are “almost word-for-word identical”, meaning the competition must achieve the same result.
There is sufficient evidence that the Louisiana measure “would place significant barriers on the road for women seeking an abortion in Louisiana,” Breyer added.
Roberts dissented in the 2016 case, called Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, but said he voted with the Liberals on Monday based on the court’s tradition of respecting its precedence.
“I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the matter had been wrongly decided. However, the question today is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether I should adhere to it in the decision on the case at hand,” Roberts wrote.
But Roberts questioned some of the agency’s analysis of the Texas decision, which suggested he could join his conservative colleagues in future abortion challenges.
“We are relieved”
Consequently, the positive response to the decision by the abortion rights group was attenuated.
“We are relieved that Louisiana law has been blocked today, but we are concerned about tomorrow,” said Nancy Northup, chair of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the Louisiana Clinic.
“After today’s decision, we can breathe a relief,” added Alexis McGill Johnson, chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, another abortion rights group.
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in dissent, saying the judges in Louisiana and Texas were similar only because “the abortion right recognized in this course decision is used as a bulldozer to flatten legal rules that stand in the way.”
Roberts also supported the Liberal Justice in two other important decisions this month. One found that gays and transgender people are protected from workplace discrimination under federal civil rights laws. The other blocked Trump’s bid to end a program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation who illegally entered the United States as a child.
Several other cases involving legal challenges to limiting abortion instruments are on the way to the justice that can give other conservative opportunities to restore access to the procedure.
Trump, who sought re-election on November 3, promised during the 2016 presidential election to appoint judges who would turn the landmark 1973 Roe against Wade decisions that legalized abortion across the country. The Louisiana case marked the first major abortion dispute heard by Trump court appointed Brett Kavanaugh 2018 and Neil Gorsuch 2017 as fair. Both ruled in favor of the restrictions on abortion in Louisiana.
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States as it is in many countries. Christian conservatives – an important political constituency for Trump – are among those who are most opposed to it. The Republican president, who had supported abortion rights years before, participated in an anti-abortion march in January, declaring, “Born children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”
Proponents of abortion rights have argued that restrictions such as allowing privileges are intended to restrict access to abortion not protect women’s health, as advocates say. When the Supreme Court in 1992 upheld the Roe v. Wade decision, it banned laws that placed an “unnecessary burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion.
Baton Rouge-based USD District Judge John deGravelles cited the undue burden of prejudice when he struck down Louisiana’s 2016 law. After Louisiana’s appeal, New Orleans-based 5th USCircuitCourtof’s appeal allowed the law.