Supreme Court: John Roberts joins Liberals to block controversial Louisiana abortion law

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Breyer added later, “The evidence also shows that opposition to abortion played an important role in the decisions of some hospitals to deny admission of privileges. “

Four years ago, while Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the bench, the court overturned a similar Texas law.

Much has changed since then, however, Kennedy has been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, who is considered more conservative on the issue. Abortion rights advocates feared not only that the recent precedent would be in jeopardy, but that the stronger conservative majority might start to gnaw at historic opinions like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, who defended a woman’s right to abortion.

Roberts wrote a separate concurring opinion also citing Texas law.

“Louisiana law places an equal burden on access to abortion as that imposed by Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore, the law of Louisiana cannot take into account our precedents, “wrote the Chief Justice.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas again stated that Roe should be seen again.

“Roe is seriously wrong for many reasons,” wrote Thomas, “but the most fundamental is that his basic conclusion – that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child – finds no support in the text. of the fourteenth amendment. ”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the decision “unfortunate” and targeted the judges who sided with the majority.

“Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected judges have encroached on the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own political preference for abortion to prevail over legitimate abortion security rules McEnany said in a statement.

The matter has been closely watched as several largely red states continue to advance abortion restrictions and largely blue states move to protect access.

None of the nine so-called gestational bans – which prohibit abortions beyond a certain stage of pregnancy – passed last year came into force after most of them were blocked by the courts.

Roberts’ footnotes leave an opening

Abortion advocates feared the Louisiana affair would mark the first of what could be an increasing number of occasions for the new conservative court majority to offer a plan to states continue to reduce abortion rights.

But while Roberts overturned the law, in a concurring opinion, the chief justice left open the door that other states might be able to apply similar restrictions.

In a footnote, he said that “the validity of the law on the admission of privileges depends on many factors which may differ from state to state.”

Stephen Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas Faculty of Law, said that Roberts had suggested that he did not necessarily endorse the analysis of the 2016 decision, which carried as much on the question of whether the restrictions actually provided benefits to pregnant women than on the question of whether they imposed an undue burden.

“In the process,” said Vladeck, “the narrower opinion of the chief justice implies that states presenting different arguments in different cases may be able to justify similar restrictions in the future. In this regard, the Chief Justice may have sided with supporters of abortion today, but their victory may be short-lived. ”

While proponents of the right to abortion will be pleased that the court has preserved access to abortion in Louisiana, this language has already raised concerns.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which carried the case, addressed the imminent possibility that it would authorize other state regulations similar to those in Louisiana in a statement Monday morning.

“We are relieved that Louisiana law has been blocked today, but we are worried about tomorrow,” said Nancy Northup, group president and chief executive officer.

“(The) court ruling could encourage states to adopt even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed to protect abortion rights,” said Northup.

Anti-abortion groups denounced the decision and warned of its implications for energizing anti-abortion voters in November.

Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, defended Louisiana law as “designed to protect the health and safety of women” and promised a strong demonstration of anti-abortion voters on the decision.

“No abortion facility should receive a free pass to provide substandard care,” she added. “This decision underscores the importance of appointing and confirming judges who refrain from legislating from the bench, which pro-life voters will likely remember in November. “

The impact of the law

Louisiana’s safe abortion protection law is an effort, state officials have argued, to “improve the safety of abortion with a medical certificate.”

Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Murrill said state clinics have a “long and worrying” history of serious health and safety problems, that abortion carries “known risks of serious complications ”, although it is widely regarded as a safe procedure, as Judge Ruth. Bader Ginsburg noted in argument and that the law would make the practice of abortion “consistent” with the privilege requirements of physicians performing other outpatient surgeries. The sanction for violation of the law does not exceed $ 4,000 per offense.

The Trump administration has sided with Louisiana. The law “would not create a substantial barrier to obtaining an abortion for a large portion of Louisiana women who seek it – let alone for all of these women,” said the Senior Deputy Solicitor General, Jeffrey Wall.

The claims were denied by lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represented two doctors and a state abortion clinic, who argued that if the law could have come into force when it was passed, it would have forced the closure of two of the three remaining clinics in the state and left only one doctor with the ability to perform abortions.

Louisiana also argued that judges should not consider the constitutionality of the law because the doctors and clinics involved in the case have no legal – or “permanent” – right to be in court. Murrill said Louisiana women can challenge abortion regulations if they wish – “as women have done in many other abortion cases across the country” – but clinics and doctors cannot replace them. She said this was due to the fact that the interests of a for-profit company providing medical services for a fee may not match those of patients requesting an abortion.

Julie Rikelman, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, rejected the idea that only women who request an abortion could challenge the law in court, noting that a woman would have only a short time to initiate such a trial and that such litigation often lasts for years. .

Rikelman prevailed when a district court ruled in his favor after a trial, but a panel of judges at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision. The Court of Appeal concluded that the doctors had not made a good faith effort to obtain the credentials.

“Instead of demonstrating an undue burden on a large proportion of women,” said the Court of Appeal, the law “shows at most an insignificant burden on a small fraction of women.”

This story has been updated with the details of the decision.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to accurately explain the vote for John Roberts.

CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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