In a blow to the pro-life movement, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.
The law was blocked 5-4 on Thursday after Chief Justice John Roberts, in a move that surprised many, joined the liberal wing of the court to form the majority opinion. While the decision currently blocks the law, the battle is not over — the case has been given a temporary stay and is likely to be challenged during the court’s next term in October.
Enacted in 2014, the law required doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. While opponents argue that the law was only created for the purpose of eliminating abortion in the state of Louisiana, its creators pointed to the need for physician competence and worst-case procedures.
The law was struck down in 2017 by District Court Judge John deGravelles. His 116-page opinion argued that the law would limit abortions and place “added stress” on abortion facilities. In turn, Louisiana appealed the law to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Judge deGravelles’ original ruling 2-1.
While Judge deGravelles argued that abortion providers had unsuccessfully attempted to gain admitting privileges, the Circuit Court majority opinion argued instead that, “the vast majority [of abortion providers] largely sat on their hands, assuming they would not qualify.” It was decided that, as admitting privileges are not difficult to obtain in Louisiana, the law would not “impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the dissenting opinion for the Supreme Court ruling, in which he asserted that the decision to stay the case was premature. He argued that the law should be allowed to go into effect so that the built-in 45-day transition period could be used to determine whether or not the regulation would work, or whether it would be prohibitive.
Louisiana currently has three clinics where doctors perform abortions, so the law hinges on whether or not they are able to gain admitting privileges. “If they can, then the three clinics could continue providing abortions,” Kavanaugh explained. “And if so, then the new law would not impose an undue burden.”