Supreme Court Hands Victory to Abortion Rights Advocates

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, Friday, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — A surprising victory for abortion rights advocates from an ever liberal-leaning U.S. The Supreme Court that ruled Monday that Louisiana’s tough restriction on abortion violates the Constitution.

The 5-4 decision in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s liberal justices struck down a law passed by Louisiana’s legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Its enforcement had been blocked by a protracted legal battle.

Justice Stephen Breyer said the law imposes an undue burden and is thus unconstitutional. Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor joined the opinion. The fifth vote came from Chief Justice Roberts who said he did not join the liberals on the merits of the case but on the precedent since a similar case of Texas was struck down four years ago.

Critics argued that the law could have forced all but one of the state’s abortion providers to shut down operations. It was similar to a Texas law that the high court struck down in 2016.

Two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic sued to get the law overturned. They said it would leave only one doctor at a single clinic to provide services for nearly 10,000 women who seek abortions in the state each year.

Louisiana defended the law, arguing that the requirement to have an association with a nearby hospital would provide a check on a doctor’s credentials. But opponents said a hospital’s decision about whether to grant admitting privileges had little to do with a doctor’s competence and more to do with whether the doctor would admit a sufficient number of patients.

Abortion in the U.S. has been legal since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe versus Wade decision in 1973.

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