Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Clinic Law

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Anti-abortion protesters wait outside the Supreme Court for a decision, Monday, June 29, 2020 in Washington on the Louisiana case, Russo v. June Medical Services LLC. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates the abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The Louisiana law is virtually identical to one in Texas that the court struck down in 2016.

But Roberts, who had dissented in that Texas case, did not join the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals in Monday’s decision, and his position left abortion-rights supporters more relieved than elated.

The chief justice explained that he continues to think the Texas case was wrongly decided, but believes it’s important for the court to stand by its prior decisions.

“The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law,” Roberts wrote.

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.”

President Donald Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were in dissent, along with Justice Samuel Alito. The presence of the new justices is what fueled hopes among abortion opponents, and fears on the other side, that the Supreme Court would be more likely to uphold restrictions.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Monday’s decision by no means ends the struggle over abortion rights in legislatures and the courts.

“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” Northup said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said, “Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment. It demonstrates once again the failure of the Supreme Court to allow the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry.”

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. That would make it too hard for women to get an abortion, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected the judge’s findings and upheld the law in 2018, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

The clinics filed an emergency appeal at the Supreme Court, asking that the law be blocked while the justices evaluated the case.

Early last year, Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the court to grant that request and keep the law on hold.

Roberts’ vote was a bit of a surprise because he voted in the Texas case to uphold the clinic restrictions. It may have reflected his new role since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as the court’s swing justice, his concern about the court being perceived as a partisan institution and respect for a prior decision of the court, even one he disagreed with. Roberts didn’t write anything explaining his position at the time, but he had never before cast a vote on the side of abortion rights.

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. Those include bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks, and the almost total ban passed in Alabama.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Until abortions became LEGAL in the USA rich women went to Mexico or Sweden for the private personal procedure. Now any woman can get one LEGALLY and SAFELY, rich or poor. That’s why the law was passed. Rich women were getting them, and poor women were dying from illegal unsafe ones.

    • Before the law was passed it was tabboo. Those rich women were embarrassed to go to Sweden etc. It was a deterrent to have relationships due to the embarrassment and inconvenience. Now its become acceptable to give into ones tavious bec if all goes bad have an abortion. And yes poor people needed to go to mexico and unsafe places.

      This is why true torah jews are against abortions. its for tznuis reasons. The shaila of murder for sure in early weeks is questionable. Probably assur but not murder. We certainly would have no issue if a goy wants to do it. The reaosn we are against it is because it brings on the 1060’s hyippe care free hefker kind of enviornement which trickles down to frum jews too

      • With the ready availability of a number of different contraceptives, the availability of abortion is not a major factor in this. Many women who have had abortions are relieved but not happy: it’s not a first choice for many.
        I’ve never seen a tshuva that say abortion is assur due to tznius: do you have a citation?

  2. So we have here on VIN readers who are always so so so concerned about those who don’t wear a worthless unapproved mask but couldn’t care less about the abandon murder of defenseless babies! Pro choice apparently only applies to a so-called “mother” who, out of convenience or inconvenience, wants to murder her child with a metal hanger. And even worse, the taxpayers have to fund it! These are evil dangerous hypocrites. If you’re okay with gruesome murder, vote for Joe Biden. He proudly supports the “right” of a woman to murder her baby and have YOU pay for it.

    • Are you aware that the Great Donald Trump was ion his prior incarnation a vocal supporter of abortion rights and there are those who say he paid for several abortions of fetuses that he fathered?

      • @Yoni
        What you and other idiots fail to understand is that we don’t really care about what Trump did years ago. What we do know is that he has been consistent in his conservative values since running for the presidency.
        Joe Biden – the Black pacifist – is probably a guy right up your alley!
        A normal person should vote for those aligning themselves with conservative values, or lack of.

    • This was a law about hospital admitting privileges, this ruling now will give rise to more Kermit Gosnells, if one must have hospital admitting privileges to perform a colonoscopy than they for sure should need it to perform abortions, and even Roberts agrees as he writes in his opinion he just wants to uphold precedent because it’s politically expedient for him to kow tow to the Democrats who threaten the supreme court.

  3. The poor defenseless babies can now be brought into a family that doesn’t want them, can’t afford them, while its ok for the poor defenseless mother to die from an illegal abortion in a basement in BP. Hippocrites are against abortions but pay their girlfriends to cover them up. Legal abortion is THE LAW OF THE LAND.

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