The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Louisiana from enforcing a law that women’s groups said would leave only a single doctor legally allowed to perform abortions in the state.
By 5-4 vote, the court said the restrictions must remain on hold while challengers appeal a lower court decision in favor of the law.
It was the Supreme Court’s first significant action on the hot-button issue of abortion since Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, replaced Anthony Kennedy, who generally voted with the court’s liberals to uphold abortion rights.
The vote was not a ruling on the legal merits of the Louisiana restriction, but the decision to keep the law on hold signals that a majority of the justices have doubts about its constitutionality.
Passed by the state legislature in 2014, the measure requires any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Two Louisiana doctors and a clinic filed a legal challenge, arguing that it was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. In that ruling, joined by Justice Kennedy, the court said Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing them any medical benefits.
The Center for Reproductive rights said Louisiana’s law would leave only one doctor at a single clinic in New Orleans to perform the procedure, a drastic limitation that “cannot possibly meet the needs of approximately 10,000 women who seek abortion services in Louisiana each year.”
Kavanaugh’s stance on the case contradicts the Supreme Court’s five-to-three decision in 2016 striking down a similar Texas law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and would seem to fly in the face of assurances made by Senator Susan Collins, who cast a crucial vote for his confirmation, that Kavanaugh would respect previous precedent and not seek to erode abortion rights.
“To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself. He believes that precedent ‘is not just a judicial policy … it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent.’ In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration; it is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances,” said Collins in a speech from the Senate floor.
At the time, legal and health care experts repeatedly warned Collins that these claims were legally meaningless and that Kavanaugh’s past actions showed he would likely vote to restrict reproductive rights.
National political commentators and many of Collins’ constituents were quick to react to the decision on social media on Thursday evening, often mocking Collins’ past claims.
As I wrote last August, all you had to do was to see what Kavanaugh was saying in public to know where'd he be on abortion. Susan Collins was either delusional or disingenuous in thinking otherwise. https://t.co/fCxRAYTd2K
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) February 8, 2019
— Paul Jessen (@pj_maine) February 8, 2019
To be clear: Kavanaugh is apparently so eager to overturn Roe that he is willing to let states *ignore Supreme Court abortion precedent* and permit lower courts to effectively overrule the Supreme Court.
Again: Kavanaugh has declared war on Roe.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) February 8, 2019
— jenn (@jennlynnloving) February 8, 2019
— Susie Crimmins (@scrimmins53) February 8, 2019
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Alex D is a conservative journalist, who covers all issues of importance for conservatives. He writes for Supreme Insider, Red State Nation, Defiant America, Right Journalism, Conservative US. He brings attention and insight from what happens in the White House to the streets of American towns, because it all has an impact on our future, and the country left for our children. Exposing the truth is his ultimate goal, mixed with wit where it’s appropriate, and feels that journalism shouldn’t be censored. Join him & let’s spread the good word!