The Supreme Court has struck down Louisiana’s restrictive abortion laws in a narrow 5-4 ruling that surprised abortion-rights advocates, considering the decision came from a conservative-leaning court.
As NBC News reported, Louisiana had enacted an abortion bill in 2014 that required doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the abortions were performed. That effectively limited all abortions in The Pelican State to one doctor at one clinic, who would then be solely responsible for treating the estimated 10,000 Louisiana women who seek abortions each year.
Two doctors and a medical clinic sued to have the law overturned.
The law was virtually identical to a Texas law that mandated the same requirements. That law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016.
Indeed, the plaintiffs brought their suit partly on the bases that the Court had previously struck down a similar law.
However, that bench had a different makeup. Specifically, Justice Anthony Kennedy had served on the Court at the time of the Texas ruling. The Reagan appointee later retired, however, replaced with the more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee.
Neverthless, Kavanaugh’s appointment — along with that of Neil Gorsuch, another Trump-appointed conservative — failed to sway the Court to uphold the Louisiana law.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the 2016 Texas decision, also wrote for the majority in Monday’s decision.
“[The Louisiana law] imposes an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”
Chief Justice John Roberts noted that he believed his colleagues made the wrong decision in striking down the Texas law. However, precedent is binding, he said, and thus he sided with the majority.
“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents,” he wrote.
The four dissenters — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, plus Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — insisted that Louisiana’s law was legitimate and necessary.
“Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction,” Thomas wrote in the dissent, according to Al Jazeera.
The ruling marks the first major abortion decision to come down from the Supreme Court since Trump took office. Many anti-abortion advocates had hoped that a conservative-leaning Court would lead to further abortion restrictions.
Abortion opponents called the ruling a “bitter disappointment.”