U.S. Supreme Court blocks La. law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges

The high court is expected to decide in the next few days whether the state can begin...
The high court is expected to decide in the next few days whether the state can begin enforcing a law requiring doctors who work at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It was passed in 2014, but has never taken effect. (Source: Raycom Image Bank)
Updated: Feb. 8, 2019 at 4:23 AM CST
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling Thursday, Feb. 7, blocking a Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The justices voted, 5-4, to delay the law’s implementation until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling after full review and deliberation.

Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, authored the Act 620 that passed with flying colors through Louisiana’s legislature in 2014. It requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, essentially making them honorary members of that hospital’s staff.

Pro-life advocates, including the bill’s author, said the law aims to keep mothers safe by ensuring the doctor who performs an abortion can also treat the patient at the hospital in the event of a complication. But issues with legally performed abortions are rare, and pro-choice advocates argue the law places an undue burden on doctors who perform abortions.

“The intent of the Louisiana Legislature is to close every abortion clinic in the state regardless of what women need for health care,” legislative director for Louisiana’s chapter of the National Organization for Women said Friday. “It took us a long time to get here, and it’s probably going to take a long time for us to work our way back from this because there’s absolutely no medical benefit at all for admitting privileges.”

The Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Texas in 2016, which is why some people were surprised when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Louisiana iteration in September 2018. After years of legal challenges, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the law would take effect on Jan. 28.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, or lack thereof, is their first abortion decision since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench. He has essentially never issued a formal ruling on abortion and has been mum in his opinions on the issue.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissent explaining his vote that would have allowed the law to take effect, although it is still unclear exactly how he would vote on a broader case like Roe v. Wade.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals in putting a hold on the law, pending a full review of the case.

Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards released the following statement:

“As a pro-life Catholic, I will always advocate for laws that protect the dignity and sanctity of life. I voted for the bill in 2014. I urge the Supreme Court to act quickly in this matter, so Louisiana may move forward," he said.

Both pro-choice and pro-life groups have reacted to the decision.

“The Supreme Court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The three clinics left in Louisiana can stay open while we ask the Supreme Court to hear our case. This should be an easy case. All that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s own precedent.”

Pro-life group, Louisiana Right to Life, has also spoken out.

“While we are disappointed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act will not go into law immediately, we do look forward to the potential of the law going into effect later this year after the court either denies the petition for certiorari, or upon a ruling in Louisiana’s favor after full briefing on the merits. The abortion industry, over the past four decades, has fought against every common sense health standard. This is just another example of the extreme lengths the abortion industry pursues to protect abortion-on-demand,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life.

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