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Supreme Court ruling on abortion: Louisiana law overturned

A sign saying, Abortion is a Human Right, is seen at the ‘Stop The Bans Day of Action for Abortion Rights’ rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Michael Brochstein | SOPA Images | Light Rocket via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday voted 5-4 to strike down a Louisiana abortion restriction in a major victory for reproductive rights activists, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four liberals.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote an opinion joined by his Democratic-appointed colleagues, wrote that the law placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Roberts wrote separately to say his thinking was based on the court’s 2016 decision to strike down a similar law in Texas.

The case involved a Louisiana abortion law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. Critics of the law have alleged that the restriction would limit the state to one abortion provider at one clinic.

Breyer wrote that the law posed a “substantial impediment” to women and provided “no significant health benefit”, and was therefore unconstitutional.

The dispute was the first on abortion to be argued before President Donald Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged Louisiana’s abortion law in higher court, said in a statement that “we are relieved that the law in Louisiana has stalled today, but we we are worried about tomorrow”.

“With this victory, clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of childbearing age in the state. But the court’s decision could encourage states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if Abortion rights must be protected, Northup said.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said in a statement that the Supreme Court “continued its series of heartbreaking rulings that put ‘access’ to abortion above health and safety. women and girls”.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Chief Justice is continuing a series of inconsistent and baseless rulings,” Landry said. “In his misguided effort to convince the public that the Supreme Court is not political, Justice Roberts shows just how political it really is.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who voted for the abortion law while in the Louisiana House of Representatives, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” with the decision. the Supreme Court but that he respected the decision “and hopes that Louisiana and our nation will continue to move forward.”

Anti-abortion groups immediately criticized the decision.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, called the decision a “bitter disappointment.”

“This demonstrates yet again the Supreme Court’s failure to empower the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal, for-profit abortion industry,” Dannenfelser said.

Dannenfelser said the Supreme Court’s decision “reinforces how important Supreme Court justices are in advancing the pro-life cause” and called “it’s imperative that we re-elect President Trump and our pro-life majority.” life in the US Senate so that we can further restore the judiciary, more specifically the Supreme Court.”

The case is the third in a string of major victories for the Liberals in the High Court that have come amid an election battle between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, Roberts joined the court’s four Democratic appointees in pushing back against the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era immigration program known as DACA.

Also in June, Roberts and Gorsuch sided with the Liberal Four in a ruling that gay and transgender workers cannot be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump campaigned to appoint judges who would “automatically” overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, and the Justice Department supported Louisiana in this case.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the decision “unfortunate”.

“States have legitimate interests in regulating any medical procedure – including abortions – to protect patient safety,” McEnany said in a statement. “Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected judges have encroached on the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own pro-abortion policy preference to override legitimate abortion safety regulations. “

A federal judge declared the Louisiana law unconstitutional in 2017, but that decision was overturned by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court suspended the appeals court’s decision last year while it considered the case.

Roberts cites 2016 abortion case in Texas

Roberts said her vote with the Liberals on Monday was based on top court precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case the court decided in 2016. In that case, the court struck down an almost identical Texas law by a 5-3 vote. Roberts voted at the time to uphold the law.

But in his view on Monday, Roberts said the legal doctrine known as stare decisis, or the principle of respect for precedent, “compels us, in the absence of special circumstances, to treat similar cases in the same way “.

“Louisiana law imposes a burden on abortion access just as severe as that imposed by Texas law, for the same reasons,” Roberts wrote. “Therefore, Louisiana law cannot stand up to our precedents.”

Judge Samuel Alito, joined by fellow conservatives Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and Judge Clarence Thomas, wrote that it was true that the Louisiana case and the Texas case “have something in common.”

“In both cases, the right to abortion recognized in the decisions of this Court is used as a bulldozer to iron out the legal rules that stand in the way,” he wrote.

Thomas, in his own dissent, wrote that the Louisiana law was “perfectly legitimate” and criticized his colleagues for perpetuating “its ill-founded jurisprudence on abortion”.

“Our abortion precedents are gravely flawed and should be overturned,” Thomas wrote.

The case is June Medical Services v. Russo, No. 18-1323.