February 7, 2019; NPR, “Law”
Reproductive rights advocates will need plenty of support this year as abortion cases make their way onto the Supreme court docket. Yesterday, in an early test of the new US Supreme Court on abortion rights, the Supreme Court stepped in to stay the enforcement of a Louisiana law that, according to advocates, would have closed most clinics providing abortions and left only one doctor available in the state to do the procedure.
The 2014 law, which has never been enforced, requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. A similar Texas law was already found to be unconstitutional in 2016, setting a precedent that advocates hope will hold.
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Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights says, “This should be an easy case—all that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s own precedent.” But, of course, the balance on the court is new, and the Louisiana case is widely considered to be a test of that new court on abortion law.
Trump-nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voted not to stay the law. The 5–4 split had Justice Roberts voting with the more liberal members of the court, but in terms of his future positioning on the issue, Roberts dissented with the majority vote to strike down that identical law in the Texas case.
The stay is only a temporary measure, and it’s likely this case will be reconsidered. The decision could go either way; if the Justices refuse to hear the case, it will leave the lower court decision in place, which would embolden states to pass additional restrictive abortion-related laws.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg warns that this should not be seen as much more than a temporary reprieve. We may not have to wait long to see if the US Supreme Court will move to overturn abortion rights, all the way up to and including Roe v. Wade.—Ruth McCambridge