Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion law

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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.

Since then a number of conservative states have enacted new abortion restrictions that could lead to legal challenges that allow the Supreme Court to sharply curtail the right to abortion procedures. In New York, a new law allows abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy if the fetus will not live outside the womb, or an abortion is necessary to protect a woman's health. Kavanaugh acknowledged that the court's decision in the Texas case is the guiding precedent and seemed to suggest he might be willing to vote the other way if it turned out that hospitals were unwilling to afford the doctors admitting privileges. Thursday's order from the Supreme Court offers nothing as to the merits of the Louisiana law, which means that for all we know, Roberts' opinion on the constitutionality of such measures hasn't changed at all from his 2016 Whole Woman's Health vote. He was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose judicial approach to abortion was relatively unclear at the time of his confirmation.

The pro-life movement's hopes are the justices will review and uphold the Fifth Circuit decision.

Thursday's action again demonstrates Roberts' role as the key vote on abortion in the Supreme Court, said CNN analyst and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck.

In an abortion case, taken up by the Supreme Court, a Louisiana law would require doctors giving abortions to have "admitting privileges" at a hospital within "30 miles of the facility where the abortion is performed". But the law isn't struck down yet.

An abortion clinic in Shreveport and two unnamed doctors responded by requesting a stay from the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously redefined the Obamacare mandate as a tax to justify it constitutionally, has sided with the court's liberals in an abortion-related case.

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Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's two high-court appointees, are among six Trump-nominated judges who voted to let the law take effect, a sign that the president is carrying through on a campaign pledge to put abortion-rights opponents on the bench.

Kavanaugh and Roberts joined the four liberal justices in their December decision not to review the appeals regarding the removal by Kansas and Louisiana of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissent that said he would have let the law go into effect because the appeals court had said "the new law would not affect the availability of abortions from. the four doctors who now perform abortions at Louisiana's three abortion clinics". Lawmakers have defended the law, saying that one abortionist has already obtained hospital admitting privileges. "And the reality is that requiring the doctors to have admitting privileges doesn't confer any real health benefits".

In a profound display of missing the point, Kavanaugh wrote at length about how the effect of the Louisiana statute might not really be as bad as it's cracked up to be. How long has this been caught up in the courts? While Justice Roberts is a conservative, he's considered an institutionalist and an incrementalist with a keen desire to protect the court's legitimacy.

On Thursday night, the Supreme Court - by a 5-4 margin - blocked a Louisiana law that could have limited access to abortions in the state from going into effect. That way, if an abortion is botched, the physician can stay with the woman to provide continuity of care at a hospital.

"If they can, then the three clinics could continue providing abortions", Kavanaugh wrote.

Trump, seeking re-election next year, has seized on the abortion issue, which appeals to his conservative base and evangelical Christian voters who are among his most ardent supporters.

This is something to keep an eye on, as Roberts has voted to restrict abortion access in the past, but it's clear that he draws the line at being a transparently hypocritical hack who values conservative activism more than judicial precedent.

  • Sonia Alvarado