Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic regulations

Erika Holt
February 10, 2019

"Justice Kavanaugh plays his cards very close to the vest in this ruling", Tu said in a telephone interview with CBS News. Does Thursday's vote signal that Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt is more enduring as a precedent than its mere two and a half years might suggest? The fact of the matter is that four of the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court voted yesterday to assert that Supreme Court precedent can be ignored on this subject (SCOTUS can overrule its own precedent, it typically just takes more logic than "the offender promised they wouldn't do the unconstitutional thing that they already tried to do").

"People need to know that we're not doing politics".

Roberts has been there for them in that quest, in cases, such as Hobby Lobby, that carved out areas where Christians need not follow laws they find displeasing.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor to grant an emergency stay while the case proceeds. The vote was 5-4, and Roberts voted with the conservative bloc in the minority. The petitioners argue that nearly all abortion clinics in the state would close while the matter is pending in the Supreme Court and that the justices should keep the law from going into effect during that time.

After decades of relative stability under the court-imposed Roe precedent, the ground on abortion rights in the USA could be shifting.

In places like Louisiana, a requirement for doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges is just the most recent roadblock for women seeking abortion. The law was almost identical to the Texas provision the Court had declared unconstitutional two and a half years prior.

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Those opposed to the law say that it would prevent all but one abortionist in the state from performing abortions.

Roberts may yet determine, as the divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit did in upholding the Louisiana law, that the Supreme Court's earlier decision requires a fact-intensive examination of conditions in the state.

That the case made its way to the U.S. supreme court at all shows the power of federal appeals court judges, which the Trump administration has made a priority of confirming.

Kavanaugh said that both parties offered competing predictions about how the law would affect the doctors and noted that the higher court, the Fifth Court, concluded that the doctors could likely obtain admitting privileges. If they could not, they could come back before the court, he said. But in his dissent he said otherwise.

Common, in-clinic procedures performed by other specialists have far greater risks than abortions. "Precedent" takes a backseat to conservative ideology, and Kavanaugh joining three other conservative justices to rule that Louisiana does not have to adhere to the precedent set in the Texas case is the clearest indicator of how the conservative Supreme Court really views its job. On the other hand, if they successfully obtained admission privileges, then abortion access would not be burdened and the dispute would terminate. That would be a tacit acknowledgment that a majority of the justices no longer support the 2016 decision, and an invitation to anti-abortion state legislatures to pass more laws aimed at gutting Roe v. Wade without reversing it outright.

Roberts voted in favor of a similar abortion law in Texas in 2016. "If they can. then the new law would not impose an undue burden for purposes of [the precedent in the Texas case]". Gorsuch joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in saying the law should go into effect; none of the three provided their reasoning. Yet, in 2000, he was the author of a 7-2 decision that reaffirmed the Miranda case. The case now faces a full hearing. In March, the justices will consider whether to impose limits on drawing electoral districts for partisan political gain.

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