U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Restrictive Louisiana Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a huge victory to abortion-rights advocates on Friday when they prevented Louisiana from enforcing a new law. The law blocked by the Supreme Court would have left the State of Louisiana with only a single doctor qualified to perform abortions in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices issued an order that restores a previous judicial ban on enforcing the 2014 Louisiana law. The Supreme Court reached its decision with a 7-1 vote, reports The Los Angeles Times, minus the recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. Based on the vote margin, Scalia’s (most likely conservative) vote would not have made a difference in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The ruling is an excellent sign for abortion rights advocates both in Louisiana and throughout the nation, and was considered a big win for the pro-choice cause.

Supreme Court Pro Choice
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The Supreme Court ruling comes just after the eight justices debated a similar law in Texas, and the 7-1 margin indicates that the vast majority of justices on the Supreme Court are utterly unwilling to allow conservative states to enforce abortion laws/regulation that conflict with earlier Supreme Court rulings on the matter, such as Roe v. Wade.

Previously, a federal judge in the State of Louisiana blocked the state from enforcing new legislation that would require abortion performing physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. According to the federal judge in the case, most hospitals in the state absolutely and utterly refused to grant or even consider granting admitting privileges to any physician whose practice included performing abortion procedures.

According to the previous ruling by the federal judge, the medical benefits of the proposed law were minimal, and the enforcement of the legislation would “put an undue burden” on women seeking safe, legal abortion procedures in their state.

However, on February 24, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (which had previously upheld a similar piece of Texas anti-abortion legislation), lifted the federal court judge’s order that had been blocking the enforcement of the Louisiana law. An emergency appeal was immediately filed by abortion-rights lawyers by way of U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who has been handling such Supreme Court appeals from the 5th Circuit since the sudden death of justice Antonin Scalia.

The abortion-rights groups which supported the emergency appeal filed with the U.S. Supreme Court argued that if the Louisiana admitting privilege legislation were enforced, the state would be left with only one abortion provider.

“That lone doctor, working in one clinic, cannot meet the need for approximately 10,000 abortions in Louisiana, a need that was previously met by six physicians in five clinics across the state.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Friday order will keep enforcement of the controversial anti-abortion legislation on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the pending Texas case, which is of a very similar nature.

DC Pro Choice Rally
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Ultimately, Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed four Louisiana abortion clinics to reopen. The clinics had been shut down by the February 24, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to discontinue blocking the enforcement of the Louisiana law.

Think Progress reports that of the eight U.S. Supreme Court justices who weighed in on the emergency case, only justice Clarence Thomas expressly dissented from the nearly-unanimous ruling.

According to experts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday was not a surprise; however it was surprising that the federal appeals court allowed the Louisiana law to go into effect in the first place. Particularly following apparent signals from the U.S. Supreme Court that they shouldn’t.

The Supreme Court has twice issued stays of enforcement in similar Texas legislation; legislation currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and expected to be ruled on this session. The second time the Supreme Court was forced to issue a stay in the Texas case, it was quite comprehensive.

On Wednesday, March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the Texas abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. During the session, Justice Anthony Kennedy showed an openness to striking down the controversial and restrictive Texas anti-abortion law, however he seemed concerned with a “unique procedural issue” related to the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to put another stay on the enforcement of the new Louisiana legislation seems to be indicative of an almost-consensus among the justices that such laws go too far in restricting women’s access to safe, legal abortion on demand. Today’s ruling has led to widespread speculation that the current Texas abortion law being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, a law that is so similar to Louisiana’s, will be struck down.

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