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Roberts Votes w/ Liberals as Supreme Court Blocks La. Abortion Limits

11 February 2019, 12:46 | Tara Lloyd

Supreme Court Blocks Abortion Restrictions in Louisiana

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic law

In a 5-4 ruling issued late in the day on February 7, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a Louisiana law that likely would have put the majority of the state's abortion providers out of business while running afoul of recent Supreme Court precedent.

Louisiana's Unsafe Abortion Protection Act requires a doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic where a procedure is performed. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who President Donald Trump appointed to replace Kennedy, joined the court's four other conservatives in dissent. While Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the other more conservative justices who would have allowed the law to take effect.

In that decision, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a five-member majority said the law "provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an "undue burden" on their constitutional right to do so". "Precedent" takes a backseat to conservative ideology, and Kavanaugh joining three other conservative justices to rule that Louisiana does not have to adhere to the precedent set in the Texas case is the clearest indicator of how the conservative Supreme Court really views its job. If this is a display of Kavanaugh's Solomonic wisdom, I'd honestly hate to see how he resolves disputes on those sports teams he's so fond of coaching.

A key issue before the Justices will be whether the majority of that appeals court - the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit - failed to follow the legal standard that the Supreme Court used in ruling against the Texas law on hospital privileges for abortion doctors. The state argues that it ensures women's safety and a higher level of provider competence.

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court voted to keep the hold on the law while a lower court decision in favor of the law is challenged on appeal.

The point that Kavanaugh's making is that Louisiana will not "move aggressively to enforce" law that the Supreme Court has already ruled unconstitutional. The appeals court denied January 18 a request for a review by all the judges.

Louisiana has only three clinics with a total of four doctors who perform abortions, only one of whom has hospital admitting privileges. "And in that circumstance, the Louisiana law as applied would not impose an undue burden under Whole Woman's Health", Kavanaugh wrote. Slate interpreted that to mean he is, indeed, "declaring war on Roe v. Wade".

Landry said that his office "will not waver" in defense of the law and will "continue to do all that we legally can to protect Louisiana women and the unborn". The conservative states that would outlaw abortion if Roe fell will then simply pass TRAP laws so onerous that almost every abortion provider in those states will be forced out of business.

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Since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last summer, Roberts has become the court's new swing vote.

The court on Thursday granted an emergency application by Shreveport-based abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women to stop Louisiana's law from taking effect.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, applauded the Supreme Court's stay, saying in written comments, "While this particular ruling thankfully falls on the right side of history, it illustrates a sobering reminder: the thread that women's rights hang by is dangerously thin in so many places across the country".

And when they do uphold the Louisiana law after a full hearing, that's what Roberts will accomplish. The same is true of the Affordable Care Act, where Roberts declined to join the conservatives in striking down the entire law, instead crafting a compromise that upheld most of it while allowing states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion (thereby denying health coverage to millions of poor Americans). The law was challenged nearly immediately upon passage and had been held from taking effect by legal challenges since it was passed. Susan Collins everything from "a raging fool" to an utter dupe for helping to put him on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice William Rehnquist had been a fierce critic of the Supreme Court decision that requires police officers to advise arrestees of their Miranda rights to remain silent and have a lawyer represent them.

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