BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Experts say the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to strike down a strict 2014 Louisiana abortion law Monday, June 29 may indicate how the latest iteration of the court will rule on future abortion challenges.
The 2014 law would have required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinic, essentially making those doctors honorary hospital staffers.
Pro-life advocates, including the bill’s democratic author, say the law intends to keep mothers safe by ensuring doctors can follow their patients from the abortion clinic to the hospital and oversee care in the event of a complication.
“The doctor who performs the surgery is the one that’s most capable of fixing (a problem) at the hospital,” Louisiana Right to Life’s Angie Thomas said. “It’s continuity of care.”
But issues with legally performed abortions are rare, and pro-choice advocates argue the law places an undue burden on doctors. One supreme court justice noted that some hospitals do not offer admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions because the hospitals do not want to be associated with abortions.
“Abortion is safe,” Kathaleen Pittman, who runs the Shreveport abortion clinic at the center of the case, said. “It’s one of the safest outpatient procedures known in the U.S. and it should be treated no differently than any other medical procedure.”
Had the court ruled differently, all three of Louisiana’s abortion clinics would probably have closed, advocates say. Only one doctor would be left to perform the 10,000 abortions that take place in Louisiana each year, down from four.
“To say we’re elated hardly begins to come close to what we are feeling,” Pittman said. “It’s palpable - the excitement in the air. Everybody’s trying to calm down so they can take care of patients.”
A more liberal version of the Supreme Court struck down a nearly-identical Texas law in 2016. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the pro-lifers then, but sided with the liberal justices in Monday’s ruling. He said the court established precedent in 2016 and found no substantive difference between the Louisiana and Texas cases.
“The Supreme Court continues to put themselves out there as this national abortion board, where abortion becomes this untouchable thing,” Thomas said. “Five judges usurped the will of the state and the entire legislative process... We’re still trying to figure Roberts out.”
In their first major abortion decision, both President Donald Trump’s appointees voted with the pro-lifers.
If the court upheld Louisiana’s law, legal experts anticipated challenges to Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion. But Roberts’ swing vote might discourage further litigation, given he sided with already-established precedent in this case.
The Supreme Court is not expected to litigate another major abortion ruling this year.
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