On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked a law that could have left a single doctor in the state of Louisiana permitted to perform abortions, the New York Times reports. The vote was 5-4 on the ideologically split court, with Chief Justice John Roberts aligning with his more left-leaning colleagues.
The 2014 law would have mandated that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, a requirement struck down in a Baton Rouge Federal District Court on the basis that doctors who perform abortions are frequently precluded from getting those admitting privileges. As such, Judge John deGravelles determined that the requirement placed an undue burden on what has been established as a woman’s constitutional right to abortion access.
In his ruling, deGravelles characterized the Louisiana law as being practically identical to a similar Texas provision that was struck down in a 2016 Supreme Court decision. The 2016 Supreme Court ruling found that courts should weigh whether the stated benefits of restrictive abortion laws exceeded the burdens placed on preciously established constitutional rights dating back to Roe v. Wade.
Writing for the majority at the time, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer cited evidence that the Texas requirement would have halved the number of abortion clinics in Texas, creating an undue burden on women seeking to exercise a constitutional right.
New: Supreme Court has temporarily blocked abortion restrictions in Louisiana that critics complained were virtually identical to those struck down by the justices in 2016.
The vote was 5-4. Chief Justice Roberts joined the four liberals on the court.https://t.co/tn7Jphnh8N
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 8, 2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, however, overturned this ruling, indicating a significant enough difference in the Texas precedent and a perceived benefit in the law that makes the facts of the Louisiana case meaningfully different.
In response, the affected clinics and doctors filed an emergency application for Supreme Court review while they initiated an appeal.
“Louisiana is poised to deny women their constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion with an admitting-privileges requirement that every judge…agrees is medically unnecessary,” they wrote in the application. “One doctor at one clinic cannot possibly meet the needs of approximately 10,000 women who seek abortion services in Louisiana each year.”
The application went on to predict that affected women were likely to seek out unlicensed or otherwise unsafe clinics if they felt they needed an abortion and could not arrange one under the restrictions of the law.
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the most recent addition to the court appointed by President Trump, dissented on his own behalf, arguing that the law should be implemented so that the state of Louisiana can determine how significantly the restrictions affect total number of clinics in operation.