Supreme Court to hear Louisiana abortion case

Supreme Court to hear Louisiana abortion case
© Stefani Reynolds

The Supreme Court announced Friday it would take up an abortion case from Louisiana, setting the stage for a national fight over a contentious issue during a presidential election year.

It will be the first abortion case taken up by the Supreme Court since President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE's two nominees — Justices Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchHillicon Valley: Twitter says Chinese official's virus disinformation doesn't violate rules | Hackers target WHO | Senators urge agencies to stop coronavirus robocalls Supreme Court raises bar for racial discrimination claims in contracts Progressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCoronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Progressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives Trump Jr. says he inherited 'Tourette's of the thumbs' from his father MORE — were confirmed to the bench.

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The case centers on the law in Louisiana that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement that critics say is designed to force abortion clinics to close.

The Supreme Court in February ruled 5-4 to block the law from taking effect while it was being challenged in court, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices.

But it’s not certain whether Roberts’s decision in February means he will vote to block the law after the court hears oral arguments.

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch sided with Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasTrump steps up intensity in battle with media Supreme Court postpones oral arguments amid coronavirus pandemic Supreme Court will close to public amid coronavirus pandemic MORE and Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoSupreme Court postpones oral arguments amid coronavirus pandemic Supreme Court will close to public amid coronavirus pandemic Key Democrat urges Supreme Court to livestream oral arguments MORE in dissenting.

In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law 5-3, with former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with liberal justices and Roberts in dissenting.

But Kennedy has since retired, and two conservative justices have taken seats at the court. 

Abortion rights groups say the Supreme Court should follow the precedent it set when it struck down the Texas law.

The court's ruling stated that requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges placed an "undue" burden on women seeking abortions. 

"Three years ago, the Supreme Court decided that laws like this one in Louisiana had no purpose other than to make abortion more difficult to access," said Planned Parenthood acting President Alexis McGill Johnson. 

"There’s only one reason the court would not strike down the Louisiana law and that is because Justice Kennedy, who voted to protect abortion access just three years ago, has been replaced with Justice Kavanaugh."

Despite the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the Louisiana law last year in a 2-to-1 vote, ruling it “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”

Opponents of the law argued it would force most of the state's abortion clinics to close.

Updated at 12:05 pm.