Supreme Court asked to void Louisiana abortion clinic law

Legal Events

A Louisiana abortion clinic is asking the Supreme Court to strike down regulations that could leave the state with just one clinic.

A divided high court had previously agreed to block the law pending a full review of the case.

An appeal being filed with the court Wednesday says the justices should now take the next step and declare the law an unconstitutional burden on the rights of women seeking an abortion. The Louisiana provision is similar to a Texas law the court struck down in 2016.

If the justices agree to hear the Louisiana case, as seems likely, it could lead to a decision on the high-profile abortion issue in spring 2020, in the midst of the presidential election campaign.

The case presents a swirling mix of the changed court’s views on abortion rights and its respect for earlier high court decisions.

Louisiana’s law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The justices said in 2016 that a Texas law provided “few, if any, health benefits for women.”

But the composition of the court has changed since then. President Donald Trump has put two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on the court. Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to strike down the Texas law. Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint “pro-life” justices, and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.

Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state’s three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law. There would be at most two doctors who could meet its requirements, they said.

But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected those claims, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal.

In February, the justices split 5-4 to keep the law on hold. Chief Justice John Roberts, a dissenter in the 2016 case from Texas, joined with the court’s four liberal justices to temporarily block the Louisiana measure.

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