Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Restrictions

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. J Scott Applewhite/AP/Shutterstock

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law that placed restrictions on abortion clinics, delivering a victory to abortion rights supporters wary that the landmark Roe Vs. Wade decision eventually will be overturned.

Chief Justice John Roberts concurred with the court’s four liberal justices in forming a majority in the closely watched case.

The Louisiana law placed requirements on doctors who performed abortions, requiring them to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents of the law argued that placed a severe obstacle to an abortion clinic’s ability to function.

Read the opinion here.

In his majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Louisiana law in dispute made the case “nearly identical” to a challenge to a Texas abortion statute. The court in 2016 found that law was unconstitutional, finding that it ultimately restricted access to abortions.

Breyer wrote the district court correctly concluded that the Louisiana law lacked any “health-related benefit.”

“We have examined the extensive record carefully and conclude that it supports the District Court’s findings of fact,” he wrote. “Those findings mirror those made in Whole Woman’s Health [the Texas case] in every relevant respect and require the same result.”

Breyer relied on doctors’ testimony on the difficulty of obtaining admitting privileges.

He wrote “the evidence shows, among other things, that the fact that hospital admissions for abortion are vanishingly rare means that, unless they also maintain active OB/GYN practices, abortion providers in Louisiana are unlikely to have any recent in-hospital experience.” He also wrote that opposition to abortion “played a significant role in some hospitals’ decisions to deny admitting privileges.”

In his concurring opinion, Roberts cited the precedent of the Texas decision. He wrote, “Stare decisis instructs us to treat like cases alike. The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law. The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous.”

In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the decision “claims new victims.” He argued that even though the court’s majority “cannot agree on what the abortion right requires,” they still struck down the Louisiana law, one that was put in place to protect women’s heath.

“To achieve this end, the majority misuses the doctrine of stare decisis, invokes an inapplicable standard of appellate review, and distorts the record,” he wrote.


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