US Supreme Court Blocks Restrictive Louisiana Abortion Law

Pablo Martinez Monsivais  Associated Press  File

Pablo Martinez Monsivais Associated Press File

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Supreme Court could decide this spring whether to add the case to their calendar for the term that begins in October. The petitioners argue that nearly all abortion clinics in the state would close while the matter is pending in the Supreme Court and that the justices should keep the law from going into effect during that time. In New York, a new law allows abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy if the fetus will not live outside the womb, or an abortion is necessary to protect a woman's health.

Some writers on the right are also (and more understandably) seeing dire omens in the Court's decision this week. Only one abortion care provider in the state has been successful in obtaining the privileges.

Louisiana appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and a three-judge panel voted 2 to 1 to allow the state law to go into effect.

Unsurprisingly, the abortion lobby is fighting back.

"The abortion industry, over the past four decades, has fought against every common-sense health standard", said Benjamin Clapper, executive director for Louisiana Right to Life. New conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a dissent. "Emergency stays are granted only when-among other factors-'there exists a significant possibility of reversal of the lower court's decision'". If so, this stay is a bad sign for pro-life forces. Challengers raced to court and said the law was a veiled attempt to block abortions.

In cases on what has been called the court's "shadow docket", those in the majority typically do not provide detailed reasoning for why they granted or denied the requests. That would be a tacit acknowledgment that a majority of the justices no longer support the 2016 decision, and an invitation to anti-abortion state legislatures to pass more laws aimed at gutting Roe v. Wade without reversing it outright. The appeals court denied January 18 a request for a review by all the judges. In fact, it's so complex that the typically-conservative Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the more liberal justices against the Louisiana statute. "Justice Kavanaugh's logic would greatly reduce the scope of that precedent". He said Louisiana had offered the equivalent of a 45-day grace period, in which doctors could have redoubled their efforts to obtain admitting privileges.

Louisiana has only three clinics with a total of four doctors who perform abortions, only one of whom has hospital admitting privileges.

This dissenting opinion written by Brett Kavanaugh could not be clearer as to his motivations. If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds those restrictions, emboldened abortion opponents will press hard for similar restrictions in other states. The case presented the question of whether to stay enforcement of Louisiana's 2014 "Unsafe Abortion Protection Act".

In that case, the high court voted 5-3 to rule that portions of a Texas law regulating abortion doctors and clinics constitute an "undue burden" on a woman's right to abort her child and are therefore unconstitutional. Similarly, the 5th Circuit acknowledged that it did not have any evidence that the Louisiana admitting-privileges requirement would help the health or safety of any women, even though it created a burden on providers and their patients. When Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retired past year, Trump nominated Kavanaugh, who barely received Senate confirmation after a contentious battle focused on his abortion views and sexual assault allegations.

"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", said Ilyse Hogue, the president of the advocacy group Naral Pro-Choice America. Another ThinkProgress headline states ominously and confusingly: "Hope is all that's left, with Roe v. Wade in Louisiana".

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