In Major Ruling, US Supreme Court Strikes Down Strict Louisiana Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court defended abortion rights in a major ruling on Monday by striking down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors who perform the procedure, dealing a blow to anti-abortion advocates.

The 5-4 ruling, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberals 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 had required doctors who perform abortions to have a sometimes difficult-to-obtain formal affiliation called “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic.

President Donald Trump’s administration supported Louisiana in the case.

Anti-abortion advocates had hoped that the Supreme Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, would be willing to permit abortion restrictions like those being pursued by Louisiana and other conservative states.

“Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.

The decision, authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, marked the second time in four years that the court ruled against an “admitting privileges” requirement

In 2016, the court struck down a Republican-backed Texas law that mandated admitting privileges and required clinics to have costly hospital-grade facilities, finding that the restrictions represented an impermissible “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. Breyer wrote that the two laws are “almost word-for word identical” and that therefore the court had to reach the same result.

There is sufficient evidence to find that the Louisiana measure “would place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana,” Breyer added.

Roberts dissented in the 2016 case, which was called Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, but voted with the liberals in the Louisiana case based on the court’s tradition of adhering to its precedents, he said.

“I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case,” Roberts wrote in a separate opinion.

At the same time, Roberts did question some of the court’s analysis in the earlier ruling, suggesting he may side with his conservative colleagues in future challenges to abortion restrictions.

‘WE’RE RELIEVED’

As a result, the positive reaction to the ruling from abortion rights group was muted.

“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the Louisiana clinic.

Two of Louisiana’s three clinics that perform abortions would have been forced to close if the law went into effect, according to lawyers for Hope Medical Group.

In a dissenting opinion, conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Louisiana and Texas rulings are similar only because “the abortion right recognized in this court’s decisions is used like a bulldozer to flatten legal rules that stand in the way.”

Roberts also sided with the liberal justices in two other important rulings this month. One found that gay and transgender people are protected from workplace discrimination under federal civil rights law. The other blocked Trump’s bid to end a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants – often called “Dreamers” – who entered the United States illegally as children.

Several other cases involving legal challenges to abortion restrictions in other states are heading toward the justices that could provide other avenues for its conservative majority to roll back access to the procedure.

Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, promised during the 2016 presidential race to appoint justices who would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The Louisiana case marked the first major abortion dispute heard by the court since Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Neil Gorsuch in 2017 as justices. Both ruled in favor of the Louisiana abortion restrictions.

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 most opposed to it. The Republican president, who years earlier had supported abortion rights, attended an anti-abortion march in January and declared, “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”

Abortion rights advocates have argued that restrictions such as admitting privileges are meant to limit access to abortion not protect women’s health as proponents say. When the Supreme Court in 1992 reaffirmed the Roe v. Wade ruling, it prohibited laws that placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Judge John deGravelles cited the undue burden precedent when he struck down Louisiana’s law in 2016. After Louisiana appealed, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Responses

  1. So, here we are in the 21st century. Birth control is easy to buy, doctors prescribe it, condoms are readily available and EVERYBODY IS AWARE OF THE PREVENTION OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES! YET, it appears that millions of people are so FU..ING STUPID, THAT THEY’D RATHER GO THROUGH SURGERY (AN ABORTION) than use the birth 🙄 control! AND, because of this enormous lack of brain matter, the nation is beside itself over this easy to solve idiocy. The secondary problem is that the idiots, believing in abortion, cannot see how easy it is to fix, but carry on about “it’s their body”, and “it’s not human yet”, when they damned well know that NOTHING HAS EVER BEEN BORN OUT OF A WOMAN BUT A HUMAN BABY AND THAT THE BABY IS ITS OWN HUMAN BEING BECAUSE THATS HOW OTHER F…ING HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN!
    Another idiotic point is that the Federal government protects Eagle eggs! YES! They don’t give a damn what the embryo looks like, because they know when it hatches, it’ll be an Eagle! There are years in prison and steep fines for destroying one, but no penalty for killing a human in the same scenario as the baby Eagle. That is f..ked up logic, people! The baby is not your body, get it, so drop that shit now. If you’re too dumb to understand all that, I think it would be better if you kept your legs closed. If you’re a moron, we don’t need you to breed more morons and have more single mothers with no fathers. Or, buy a f..king pack of condoms or some damned birth control pills, STUPID!

  2. I can’t stand when men way in on abortion. They can not personally know how a woman feels and the pain behind her situation and decision. They will never have to experience the physical and emotion pain or the possible long term physical and psychological effects. It’s not a nothing and should not be down played like it’s a walk in the park. I suggest men get a vasectomy instead. It’s seems they are the ones who want to have their cake and eat it too.

    1. I agree. I once saw a post describing male birth control and female birth control, which said “if you don’t want to harm the other person with a gun, it’s better to unload the bullets from the chamber than to shoot at them wearing a bulletproof vest.”

    2. Yet, when a woman chooses to abort, you can not personally know how a man feels and the pain behind his situation when his child is murdered by the mother. Women will never have to experience the physical and emotion pain or the possible long term physical and psychological effects. It’s not a nothing and should not be down played like it’s a walk in the park. I suggest women stop being promiscuous and having children out of wedlock. It’s seems they are the ones who want to have their cake and eat it too.

  3. In the age of hospitalist, it does not make sense to require admitting privileges. To my knowledge, there is only one primary care physician in my town that still has admission privileges. Decades ago, your family doctor “did it all.” Now they only see you in their office. The hospital contracts with a provider of hospitalist that are assigned to your care during an inpatient hospitalization.

    1. This was about making things harder to have an abortion clinic so they would all need to close. Period.

      1. It would be nice if the anti-safe abortionist just stuck to restrictions that made a lick of sense. But then, they would need to examine the premise that opposing safe abortions simply returns abortions to the back ally or women falling down the steps. It is not as if abortions have not been occurring before Leif Eriksson set foot on this land.

  4. “Admitting privileges” for a doctor means that he/she can admit you as a patient, without any other approval from the hospital. It is as though the doctor were a staff member. If one doesn’t have admitting privileges, then the patient just goes to a hospital and says, “Admit me.” You speak to a clerk, and in you go. Having admitting privileges doesn’t mean your patients can get hospital care that they otherwise wouldn’t. Admitting privileges is a minor convenience for the doctor and the patient. Requiring an abortionist have admitting privileges because it’s in the patients’ interests is a sham; it’s a pretext to shut down what would otherwise be legal.

    The idea that a hospital would look at a patient, and say, “Well, we would admit you normally, but you’re a dirty girl who had an abortion because she couldn’t keep her knees together, so you can just take your sick slutty self out of here,” is unthinkable. Hospitals that react that way would lose their licenses.

    Abortion doctors who go looking for admitting privileges usually can’t get them. A hospital that awarded them would find Project Rescue picketers outside their doors the next week, and would have right-to-life activists harassing their donors and board members. Admitting privileges don’t protect anyone’s life; they are just a trick to shut down abortion health care.

    And, if you say that abortion isn’t health care, just remember that it’s a medical service, even if it’s something you wouldn’t use yourself. If that’s not enough for you, keep in mind that full term pregnancy and childbirth are way more dangerous to a woman than is abortion.

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