The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a Louisiana law imposing regulations on doctors who perform abortions.
Such a decision would allow the Texas law to stand, but it would only settle the larger question about the form of regulating abortion for Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi-the three states under the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that originally affirmed the Texas regulations.
The Texas case involves hospital admitting privileges and separate requirements that abortion facilities meet the same strict standards as surgical centers.
Texas abortion rights advocates have focused their attention on the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers whether to strike down a state law that imposed tougher regulations on abortion clinics, severely limiting health care access to women statewide.
Two days after hearing arguments in the Texas case, the Supreme Court temporarily halted a similar abortion law in Louisiana. And five states besides Texas require abortion clinics to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center. The onslaught from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer steadily dampened the swagger of Scott Keller, the young lawyer defending the regulations on abortion providers and facilities-and left little doubt about how they will vote.
The justices previously had blocked the same appeals court’s ruling in Texas while it considers that case. “As a result, many women will be unable to exercise their constitutionally protected right to choose abortion at all, and others will face unreasonable delays and therefore increased risks of complications, or will turn to self-performed, unlicensed or unsafe abortions”.
The Texas restrictions were signed into law in 2013, but lower-court orders have prevented them from being fully implemented and in June, the Supreme Court granted a request for an emergency stay, blocking enforcement of the provisions. The lone dissenter was Justice Clarence Thomas.
In 2015, Arkansas adopted a new restriction that requires only medication abortion providers to have an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges; the law does not include a similar requirement for surgical abortion providers.
Justice Kennedy speculated that the pro-life laws could lead more women to have more abortions through surgery by forcing them to wait. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in June of this year. The common understanding was that the Court’s four conservatives, joined by the “swing Justice” Kennedy, would let all or part of Texas’s law stand, encouraging the anti-abortion movement to continue making abortion increasingly inaccessible.
Justice Alito challenged the capacity argument, stating that evidence was not included in the case, so “we don’t really know what the capacity of these” clinics is.
“At worst”, the state told the justices, the law “would still leave over 90 percent of Louisiana women within 150 miles of an operating abortion clinic”.
However, pro-abortion activists are challenging the law because it makes it harder for women to obtain the procedure.
“Last week we saw women in Louisiana thrown into a waking nightmare, with appointments cancelled overnight and health centers flooded with calls”, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Elrod said the clinics “misinterpret both the facts in our prior abortion cases and the Supreme Court’s rulings”. On 25 February, the fifth circuit court of appeals ruled that the law could go into effect while the state of Louisiana appealed.