John Roberts joins liberal justices in striking down Louisiana abortion law

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

In the 5-4 decision released Monday, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined four of his more liberal colleagues in overturning the law. While supporters say the measure protects women’s health, critics said it was designed solely to restrict access to abortion and served no legitimate medical purpose.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, Louisiana’s Act 620 is “almost word-for-word identical” to a Texas law the court already has struck down. In that decision, the court ruled the admissions privilege requirement provides few, if any, health benefits for women while restricting the constitutional right to abortion. But the court’s makeup has since changed, with two new justices who were supported by anti-abortion groups, giving Louisiana officials reason to think that their state’s law would be upheld.

A Louisiana trial court ruled against the law, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. The Supreme Court in February temporarily blocked it from taking effect.

The Supreme Court says unnecessary health regulations that have the effect of limiting access to abortion are unconstitutional. The district court was correct that “enforcing the admitting-privileges requirement would drastically reduce the number and geographic distribution of abortion providers, making it impossible for many women to obtain a safe, legal abortion in the State and imposing substantial obstacles on those who could,” Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

The ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo allows Louisiana’s three abortion clinics to stay open, says the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argues the U.S. Constitution “protects the most intimate decisions that a person makes about their body.”

“This is a big win that vindicates what we’ve said all along, which is that the Louisiana admitting privileges law is unconstitutional,” the center’s President and CEO Nancy Northup said. “This is a victory for the people of Louisiana and the rule of law, but this case never should have gotten this far.”

The close 5-4 decision, only four years after the court’s ruling on a almost identical law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, shows that “nothing should be taken for granted when it comes to protecting abortion rights,” she said.

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, said the ruling allows “abortionists” to “bully their way out of following the rules that apply to everyone else.”

“I am disappointed once again in the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court and their newest ally, Chief Justice John Roberts,who decided against women and invalidated Louisiana’s admitting privileges law,” Mills said. “The Court was wrong in failing to recognize the right of states to ensure access to quality emergency medical care.”

Mills called “protecting the unborn child’s right to life” the “greatest human rights issue of our time.”

“Apparently, the U.S. Supreme Court has another agenda and will continue to retain the unconstitutional and illegitimate Roe v. Wade decision,” he said.

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