With Roberts’ Assist, SCOTUS Strikes Down Restrictive Louisiana Abortion Law

On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a win for abortion rights activists by striking down a clinic restriction law out of Louisiana. It was a five to four decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals in a concurring decision. 

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, called the law “almost word-for-word identical” to a Texas law the Court struck down in 2016.

The Court found that that “the law offers no significant health benefit” and that it will “make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the State’s asserted interests in promoting women’s health and safety.” 

“This inability,” the Court adds, “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.”

The Court had clear precedent to work with: just four years ago, it overturned an almost identical law out of Texas in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The laws centered on admitting privileges for doctors at nearby hospitals. Proponents of the laws said that they made the procedures safer; opponents said that the procedure is already safe, and that it’s just an additional and unnecessary burden meant to run abortion clinics out of town.

Then, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined his liberal counterparts. He has since retired, and this time Roberts was the swing vote.

“I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided,” Roberts wrote. “The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” he added. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Roberts was a question mark as the case unfurled, though some speculated that an eye on his legacy and discomfort with overtly political moves would prompt him to join the liberals.

In another important victory for those supporting abortion rights, the Court confirmed that health care providers can sue to challenge state laws in court on behalf of their patients. The state in this case, at one point, argued that doctors do not have the standing necessary to bring the cases, saying that their interests do not align with the patients’. 

Breyer said that the state had made the “unmistakable concession” of waiving the argument in exchange for a “quick decision” from the District Court. 

Anyway, he added, “We have long permitted abortion providers to invoke the rights of their actual or potential patients in challenges to abortion-related regulations.”

As Julie Rikelman, lawyer for the Louisiana abortion clinic said during oral arguments, the vast majority of abortion lawsuits are brought by health-care providers on behalf of their patients.

The decision means that the three abortion clinics Louisiana has can continue to operate. All others in the state were crushed under the weight of stiff restrictions and requirements in the 89 state laws Louisiana has passed to regulate abortion clinics since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

It’s also a small comfort to liberals who feared that the Court had irreparably been yanked ideologically to the right with the additions of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Indeed, one of the main selling points of President Donald Trump’s campaign was new justices to overturn Roe. With this decision, it appears that Roberts at least is not comfortable with such a fast move to disregard precedent.

Read the decision here:

[Author: Kate Riga]

Tags: Health, Texas, News, Supreme Court, Court, Abortion, Louisiana, Donald Trump, John Roberts, Roberts, Roe, Stephen Breyer, Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Hellerstedt, Whole Woman 's Health, Julie Rikelman, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Kate Riga, District Court Anyway

Source:  https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/supreme-court-abortion-louisiana-struck-down

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