The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative Chief Justice John Roberts ended up being the judge who put a Louisiana abortion law to bed. In a 5-4 ruling, Roberts sided with liberals to stay the “Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” which has been blocked since it was first enacted in 2014. The act would have required doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.
On its face, this law might not sound too controversial. Louisiana lawmakers argued that it would ensure a higher quality of care. However, critics of the law claimed that it’d result in the shuttering of abortion clinics and would greatly restrict access to said services. Critics also charged that there was no medical reason for this requirement.
To be clear, the Supreme Court has not struck the law down but, instead, stayed it. The law would have come into effect on Friday. Now, it has been put on hold. The Supreme Court could take the case up in full and the judges could rule differently next time.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh supported allowing the law to come into effect and also wrote the dissenting opinion. Kavanaugh argued that the law would not, in fact, restrict access to abortion services and that the four doctors who would be subject to the law would be unaffected. Kavanaugh also noted that the state government had a 45-day transitionary period in which it could study the impact of the law, had it come into effect. As such, he felt the move to stay the law was premature.
Currently, Louisiana has only three abortion clinics. Only four doctors are providing abortion services at said clinics. One doctor already has admitting privileges. Kavanaugh argues that the other three doctors should be able to obtain said privileges at nearby hospitals. Roughly 10,000 women seek abortions in Louisiana each year.
In 2017, a district court struck the “Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act” down. However, the Louisiana state government appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. District Court. The panel of judges ruled 2-1 to reverse the earlier decision.