Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion law

Ross Houston
June 29, 2020

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.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, "Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction".

The big picture: Louisiana had required abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. They said that because early abortions are very safe, patients rarely are sent to a hospital.

Roberts cited precedent as his reason for rejecting the law.

"I joined the dissent in Whole Woman's Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided", Roberts wrote. "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 the new case.

Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike.

The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. "Therefore Louisiana's law can not stand under our precedent", he said.

Roberts made clear, though, that he was not tying his decision to any political preference. That would make it too hard for women to get an abortion, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

"The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a almost identical Texas law", Roberts wrote. A year ago, some even suggested that Roberts may strike down 1973's Roe v. Wade.

The law threatened to close all three of Louisiana's clinics.

But critics said the controversial law would limit the number of providers in the state, violating a woman's right to an abortion. The state in this case, at one point, argued that doctors do not have the standing necessary to bring the cases, saying that their interests do not align with the patients'.

A trial judge had said the law would not provide health benefits to women and would leave only one clinic open in Louisiana, in New Orleans.

"This inability", the Court adds, "places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion".

Since 2016, the Supreme Court's makeup has changed.

Justice Alito also focused on standing in his stinging dissent, saying that "The idea that a regulated party can invoke the right of a third party for the goal of attacking legislation enacted to protect the third party is stunning".

Abortion providers argued this was an unnecessary requirement unrelated to health outcomes that only served to prevent them from being able to provide abortion care.

"This is an extremely important decision to the lives of women in Louisiana most importantly because it means that Louisiana will not effectively have abortion ban", Toobin continued.

Roberts, who Republicans voted unanimously to the court in 2005, was in favor of not immediately ending DACA and preserving health protections for trans people two weeks ago - both of which went against Trump's public policy stances.

It's also a comfort to liberals who feared that the Court had irreparably been yanked ideologically to the right with the additions of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

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