Friday, 03 July, 2020


Supreme Court ruling deals surprising blow to abortion foes

Supreme Court Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion law
Bennie Garza | 29 June, 2020, 19:38

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.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion in the Louisiana case, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Pro-lifers argued that not only was Hellerstedt wrongly decided but that Louisiana's situation is different from that of Texas anyway, including that most Louisiana hospitals don't have the Texas requirement that doctors must see a minimum number of patients per year to qualify for admitting privileges.

Instead, Chief Justice Roberts said that he was not prepared to reverse the precedent of the court's 2016 decision - made before President Trump's justices arrived - rejecting an identical Texas law.

The justices, by a 5-4 vote, said the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital violated a woman's right to abortion.

Those judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, voted against the decision announced on Monday, but Roberts' siding with the more liberal element of the supreme court bench meant their actions, alongside established conservative justices To were not enough.

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.

"The plurality concludes that the Louisiana law does nothing to protect the health of women, but that is disproved by substantial evidence in the record", Alito wrote. And the law must consequently reach a similar conclusion.

The case is No. 18-1323 June Medical Services v. Russo.

"That 2016 case set what was supposed to be a precedent that laws like Texas' that "'do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion' can not survive judicial inspection", Ginsburg wrote in a concurring opinion, referencing a lower court case.

In dissent, Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham wrote that the majority's ruling was impossible to reconcile with the Supreme Court's 2016 decision in the Texas case and with its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which banned states from placing an "undue burden" on the constitutional right to abortion.

In 2018, a divided three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in New Orleans reversed deGravelles' ruling and upheld the Louisiana law notwithstanding the Supreme Court's decision in the Texas case, saying that the law's benefits outweighed the burdens it imposed.

However, he said: "The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike".

In dissent, Judge Stephen A. Higginson wrote that the Louisiana law was "equivalent in structure, objective and effect to the Texas law" invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2016. "Therefore Louisiana's law can not stand under our precedent", he said.

Only two of the five doctors who provide abortions in Louisiana have obtained admitting privileges: one in New Orleans and one in Shreveport.

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

The court in June declined to hear a bid by Alabama to revive a Republican-enacted law that would have effectively banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

This is a developing story.

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