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Was the Supreme Court ruling against the Louisiana abortion clinic law the right decision?

Was the Supreme Court ruling against the Louisiana abortion clinic law the right decision?
WRITTEN BY
06/30/20
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Stephanie (No)

The recent Supreme Court ruling against a Louisiana abortion safety law was wrong given its danger to women and political intent.

Under the Louisiana law, “doctors who provide abortions [must] have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic,” which would have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to just one. Yet, this is not an overly restrictive request considering possible risks that accompany the procedure, including an “incomplete abortion,” “damage to internal organs,” infection, and death. While rare, they unfortunately do happen.

This makes the case undeniably political, as illustrated by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s concern, saying that the court “places ‘access’ to abortion above the health and safety of women and girls.” This ‘access,’ was promoted by abortion activists who claimed that lack of clinics in the state could be a “substantial obstacle” in obtaining an abortion and that the law “provided no significant health-related benefits.”

The Louisiana case was heavily compared to one in Texas, also requiring nearby hospitals. This appeared to be a factor in the poor ruling, as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “said the Louisiana law could not stand given the court’s 2016 decision to overturn a similar Texas law.”

However, the laws respectively regarded states of vastly different sizes, so the number of clinics and doctors able to perform abortions could differ, which is what this case appears to be about.

Those in opposition to the outcome argued against politicized Supreme Court rulings, as well as the danger to “women from tentacles of the brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.


Jennifer (Yes)

Roe v. Wade is undermined by 'admitting privileges' laws like the one in Louisiana recently struck down by SCOTUS. Known as a TRAP (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers) law, the intent is to make it impossible for clinics to remain open. Referring to the Louisiana law as 'unconstitutional,” the court had no choice but to strike it down according to legal precedent and the Constitution itself. 

Admitting privileges laws have been creeping across the US since 2011. Between that year and 2014, nine states instituted a law almost identical to the one just struck down by SCOTUS.

Perhaps those outraged by this decision should be aware that HB2 was passed in Texas in 2013. This TRAP law demanded that women seeking abortions be referred to any hospital within a 30-mile radius to obtain the procedure. Of the 42 clinics operating in Texas at the time, only 19 remained open following this decision. Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt was handed down in 2016, in favor of the plaintiffs for reasons similar to the Louisiana decision – that the law had the effect of denying health services to women, which were deliverable under law.

Access is key to the spirit of Roe v. Wade and limiting access by the introduction of laws with precisely that intent is unconstitutional. It was, therefore, SCOTUS's duty to follow the spirit of the law and the Constitution in the matter of June Medical Services v. Russo. Roe V. Wade is the law. Attempting to undermine settled law by the application of mechanisms like TRAP is clearly a cynical end-run around the Constitution.

Fact Box

  • The 5-4 ruling is a win for supporters of abortion rights who argued that the law was not medically necessary and amounted to a veiled attempt to restrict abortion. The law barred doctors from performing the procedure unless they had admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
  • 'The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana's law cannot stand under our precedents,' the chief justice wrote.
  • 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.
  • The Supreme Court has made clear that it rejects the pretext that these laws are intended to protect women’s health. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All these laws do — and the court has said this — is make it profoundly difficult to get an extremely safe and legal procedure.
  • 40 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician. 19 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point in the pregnancy, and 17 states require the involvement of a second physician after a specified point.
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