The Supreme Court has blocked a Louisiana abortion law from going into effect, dealing a hefty blow to pro-life efforts in the state. The “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act” or “Act 620,” which requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics, has been legally obstructed ever since it was enacted in 2014.
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The Supreme Court announced Thursday that it would continue to block the enforcing of the law after a group of Louisiana doctors filed a brief under June Medical Services v. Gee. The vote came in at 5-4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining forces with the court’s four liberals to form a majority. The court gave no reason for its decision to grant a temporary stay, though it is important to note that the law may still be challenged again in the future, and could end up being enforced at a later date.
The court’s latest addition, Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh, penned a dissent in the decision, focusing mainly on the prospective ability of the doctors in question to obtain admitting privileges. Under the new law, doctors who perform abortions must complete this within a 45-day transitional period, but opponents argue this causes delay and undue burden upon the women who are attempting to undergo abortive procedures as a matter of urgency.
There have been many questions raised as to the level of difficulty doctors would face in gaining admitting privileges at local hospitals — something which Kavanaugh acknowledged in his dissent.
“In order to resolve the factual uncertainties presented in the stay application about the three doctors’ ability to obtain admitting privileges, I would deny the stay with prejudice to the plaintiffs’ ability to bring a later as-applied complaint and motion for preliminary injunction at the conclusion of the 45-day regulatory transition period,” Kavanaugh wrote.
The three other dissenting justices were Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.
What was the reaction from pro-lifers?
There was disappointment in the pro-life community, who were hoping that the conservative additions to the Supreme Court would swing in their favor and enforce the new provisions. However, campaigners are also convinced that the law will eventually come into effect.
“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,” said Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, Benjamin Clapper.
Breaking: Supreme Court 5-4 grants temporary injunction of abortion statute while the case is litigated. We are disappointed the law won’t go into effect immediately, but we do look forward to the potential of the law going into effect at a later date. #ProtectWomen
— LA Right to Life (@LARighttoLife) February 8, 2019
“The abortion industry, over the past four decades, has fought against every common-sense health standard,” he noted. “This is just another example of the extreme lengths the abortion industry pursues to protect abortion-on-demand.”
What is the law all about?
The act stipulates that all abortion doctors must have admitting privileges to at least one hospital within 30 miles of the clinic in which the procedure is due to take place. This provision is designed to ensure the highest level of physician competence and also aims to safeguard women from “unsafe” terminations.
In addition, the act would also require doctors who perform more than five abortions a year to maintain proper licensing and would make some minor amendments to current informed consent policy.
More from the Bioethics Defense Fund:
“The bill clarifies that physicians in both private offices and licensed outpatient abortion facilities owe women the same informed consent protections and reporting of public health data and abortion complications, whether the abortion is surgical or an RU-486 drug-induced abortion.”
The BDF noted that far from seeking to close abortion clinics, this bill is simply “intended to protect women’s health by closing the abortion industry loophole that has allowed incompetent physicians and substandard abortion facilities to multiply at the cost of women’s lives and health.”
Why are people against it?
Pro-abortion campaigners believe that if the law is approved of by the court, it will signal a new era of abortion restrictions and would compound fears over the increasingly conservative Supreme Court. The number-one fear coming from the left is, of course, that these small legal restrictions will eventually culminate in the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
If the law isn’t permanently struck down, “women who still have access to abortion services would face delays, be forced to travel long distances and have to endure other obstacles that could harm their health,” wrote Nancy Northup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, for the The New York Times.
“Undoubtedly, some women will seek out unlicensed or unsafe abortions, or be compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The hardships will be greatest for women in poverty, who already face the greatest barriers to access,” Northup explained.
What are pro-life campaigners saying?
The majority of pro-life advocates appear to be in support of the bill, as it restricts access to some abortions, endeavoring to keep women safe and hopefully lowering the abortion rate overall.
“Abortion facilities should not receive special loopholes opting them out of requirements that apply to all other outpatient surgical facilities,” Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, said in a statement. “We look forward to the Supreme Court’s consideration of this common-sense law protecting the health and safety of women.
Faithwire spoke to Pastor Mark Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas, who spends three days a week conducting pro-life advocacy at the Louisiana clinic at the heart of this Supreme Court case: June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee.
“The Supreme Court needs to take their time on this case,” Dickson warned. “The justices need to listen to both sides and think about what really is in the best interest of the women. For this reason, I am glad that they delayed the decision for a week.”
Many have highlighted the similarities between June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee and a Texas statute that the Supreme Court justices struck down in the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. While some pro-abortion campaigners believe this will compel the judges to uphold precedent and rule in the same direction, Dickson highlighted a different angle.
“That case ended up being a 5-3 decision from the Supreme Court in favor of Whole Woman’s,” the pastor explained. “June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee, which is the Louisiana case, is different. But if the justices ruled in June Medical Services LLC v. Gee in a similar fashion to the way they ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, under the current makeup of the Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh could be the ones who make the deciding vote.”
Dickson further noted that, in light of the fierce backlash from the pro-abortion crowd, “one might think that the law that was to be decided by the Supreme Court is a law to abolish abortion in its entirety,” adding that “this is not what this law does.”
“This law will not stop one abortion from happening in the entire state of Louisiana,” he said. “All this law does is say that if you are a doctor who is performing abortions in Louisiana you have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of your clinic. If Hope Medical Group For Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, really is ‘for women’ then they should be for this law going into effect.”
In her New York Times piece, pro-abortion activist Nancy Northup noted that, should the law go into effect, more facilities “will be forced to close because it’s so difficult to secure admitting privileges,” adding that “close to 10,000 women seek abortions in Louisiana each year, and one or two doctors cannot care for all of them.”
That, in Dickson’s mind, is highly concerning with regards to quality of healthcare.
“The fact that many doctors in this region have not been granted admitting privileges” to surrounding hospitals should “send up a red flag to many,” the pastor said.
There is no doubt that debate over this new law will rage as the case takes center stage before the Supreme Court this week. However, Pastor Dickson urged people to keep in mind the wider abject horror of abortion amid all the technical details of this particular bill — it is, without question, the deliberate ending of human lives.
“Regardless of what the Supreme Court says, abortion needs to be abolished in Louisiana,” he declared. “The only way that is going to happen is if the Church rises up and says, ‘Enough is enough.’ No child will be safe until life is protected starting at the moment of conception.”