The Supreme Court delivered two decisions Monday on cases concerning life issues. Among a total of three decisions issued by the court June 29, justices overturned a Louisiana state law seeking to hold abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.
In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion, the court found that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women. Having been initially blocked on appeal by a district court, the law was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019.
Breyer wrote that the state’s law was “almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law” that the Court ruled against in 2016.
The district court’s original ruling was correct to affirm that Louisiana’s “admitting privileges regulation offers no significant health benefit,” Breyer wrote, as well as its finding that the regulations “have made and will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers” to do so, thus putting “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the majority, said that abortion clinics did have standing to appeal the law on behalf of women in the state, despite having separate interests in seeing the law overturned. At issue in the case was whether the law, enacted in June of 2014, imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion in the state.
Abortion providers argued that the Louisiana law imposed substantially the same restrictions and burdens on women as did the Texas law, which was also rejected by the court. The Louisiana law required that abortion clinics adhere to the same standards as other surgical clinics in the state and required that doctors practicing at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law would have prevented five of the six doctors in the state who perform abortions from practicing, and would have forced the closure of two of the state’s three abortion clinics. Hope Medical Clinic, an abortion provider, and two abortion doctors sued against the law.
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