In a case watched by both sides of the abortion debate, a Louisiana law attacked by abortion supporters is now before the Supreme Court — the first major abortion-related decision since the arrival of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh, confirmed last fall, gives the conservative wing of the court a majority, a change from three years ago when a similar law from Texas was rejected by the court.
The law in question was adopted by Louisiana in 2014. It requires doctors who work at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital near the clinic, The Associated Press reported. Absent that, they cannot perform abortions.
The law was to have taken effect Monday, but Justice Samuel Alito issued an order Friday delaying that until at least Thursday so that the justices could consider an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Louisiana.
Alito’s order said the stay had nothing to do with the merits of the case, but was issued solely for procedural reasons, according to The New York Times.
Different sides of the abortion issue perceive the law differently.
“This law will make it so the same doctor that is performing the abortion will continue caring for their patient in the hospital, improving the continuity of care,” said Baton Rouge Right to Life Capital Outreach Director Mia Bordlee, according to WVUE.
“Any way we can protect these women and protect their children, we’re going to take those steps because we need a higher bar for the standard of care in Louisiana.”
Abortion rights groups saw it differently.
“This is the beginning of the end,” said National Organization for Women Legislative Director Angela Adkins. “We’re down to three clinics in Louisiana and could possibly have less than that in a week.”
Mostly, the law is perceived as a test of what the court might rule in other abortion-related cases.
“Louisiana women are counting on the Supreme Court,” Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, according to CNBC. “It has stepped in to block this very same type of law before, so this should be an easy case. The court now has the chance to show that it will stand by its own precedent.”
Rachel Morrison, a lawyer with the pro-life Americans United for Life, said the court could support Louisiana’s law despite the Texas decision.
The court’s past ruling “does not mean that all admitting privileges laws are per se unconstitutional or that there is sufficient evidence that Louisiana’s law will lead to the closure of a large number of abortion clinics in Louisiana,” she wrote on the group’s website.
“Determining whether an abortion regulation is unconstitutional is a fact-intensive inquiry that requires state-specific evidence that the law causes a substantial obstacle.”
A federal appeals court upheld the Louisiana law.
The issue before the Supreme Court now is whether the law should be allowed to take effect while legal arguments continue, or whether it should be stayed until the issue has been decided once and for all.
The law was sponsored by state Rep. Katrina Jackson, a rare, pro-life Democrat who this year addressed the Jan. 18 March for Life in Washington.
“It’s not easy because, as you can imagine, I face a lot of opposition from outside my district and state being a black, female Democrat,” she said, according to the News-Star, a northeastern Louisiana newspaper.
“But when I ran for office I was vocal about my pro-life beliefs, and I’ve really only gotten one complaint from within my district.”
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