Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion law from taking effect

Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 07, 2019

The Supreme Court Thursday blocked a Louisiana abortion access law from going into effect for now, dealing a victory to opponents of the law who argued it could decimate "safe and legal" abortions in the state.

The order was 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's four liberals voting for the stay. New conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a dissent.

Louisiana's Unsafe Abortion Protection Act has been blocked since its enactment in 2014, and like a similar Texas law the court previously struck down, requires a doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the abortion is performed.

Louisiana argues that the law is necessary to provide a higher level of physician competence, but critics say there is no medical justification for the law and it amounts to a veiled attempt to unlawfully restrict abortion.

The Center for Reproductive Rights -- representing patients, clinics and doctors in the state -- had asked the justices to put the law on hold before it was slated to go into effect on Friday, while the Center prepared briefs asking the justices to review the legality of the law.

Thursday night's ruling would not prevent the court from eventually agreeing to take up the case and uphold the law in the future.

The justices could eventually agree to take up the case and uphold the law. Supporters of abortion rights fear that the court's conservative majority -- solidified by the addition of Donald Trump's nominees Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh -- will move to chip away at abortion rights if not eventually all but overturn the landmark Supreme Court opinions of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Even before the court's order, Louisiana had said that the effects of the law would not take place immediately. Instead, the state would commence a 45-day "regulatory process" that will allow abortion clinics in the state to document the admitting privileges of their physicians who perform abortion.