The Supreme Court has temporarily put on hold a controversial Louisiana abortion law set to take effect Friday which requires abortion providers in that state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Thursday's decision offers a temporary reprieve for abortion rights advocates-especially in Louisiana, where the law would have winnowed the number of abortion providers in the state down to one.
The order was 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's four liberals voting for the stay.
The four more conservative justices, including President Donald Trump's two recent appointments to the bench, would have let the law go into effect. Proponents cast doubt on that assertion, arguing that abortion doctors were capable of seeking hospital privileges and therefore able to comply. If the law is later upheld, the court's decision, "leaves everyone wondering when, if ever, they can rely on the rulings of the court". Given that Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas did not sign on to Kavanaugh's dissent, their motives are a bit more hard to ascertain (yet still pretty obvious given their conservative view of abortion). Seated from left: Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito. The law was almost identical to a Texas case the supreme court struck down in 2016. If the remaining three doctors could obtain admitting privileges, "then the three clinics could continue providing abortions", Kavanaugh wrote in his dissent.
June Medical Services v. Gee is the first abortion rights case to come before the Roberts Court since Kavanaugh's embarrassing confirmation fight-and no, the Planned Parenthood Medicaid funding case doesn't count, Susan Collins. When Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retired a year ago, Trump nominated Kavanaugh, who barely received Senate confirmation after a contentious battle focused on his abortion views and sexual assault allegations. Brett Kavanaugh will vote to strike down Roe v. Wade the minute he gets the opportunity, and activists around the country should already have a strategy ready to pressure Roberts to uphold the Court's legitimacy (again) once this inevitability arrives on the Supreme Court's docket.
The one conservative who did not vote to ignore SCOTUS precedent is the only conservative on the court who you could say cares more about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court than conservative ideology.
Since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last summer, Roberts has become the court's new swing vote. In our system of justice, the model is that appeals courts only decide questions of law based on the factual record before them.
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Some of those measures, which provide for late-term abortion in the cases where the health of the mother is in jeopardy, have generated fierce opposition from anti-abortion groups.
The U.S. Supreme Court could, at some point, reaffirm its support for Roe and reject any infringement of its protections.
Thursday night's Louisiana ruling may have only delayed the coming upheaval. Instead, the state would commence a 45-day "regulatory process" that will allow abortion clinics in the state to document the admitting privileges of their physicians who perform abortion. The district court that initially ruled the law unconstitutional was very detailed in its fact-finding, which made it clear that the law would place an undue burden on women's right to abortion.
He added that if they cannot, "then even [Louisiana] acknowledges that the law as applied might be deemed to impose an undue burden".
The annual cutoff for cases has passed, so this matter would be heard late this year, with a decision likely in early 2020.
Louisiana now has three abortion clinics and four abortion doctors, only one of whom has the admitting privileges required by Louisiana's (yet to be enforced) law. Current cases are asking courts to recognize the unborn as persons.