A Louisiana law, the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (Act 620), has been blocked by the Supreme Court. Passed in 2014, the law would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion if the physician was not admitted to practice at a hospital within 30 miles of the location at which the abortion is performed. Two Louisiana physicians filed an emergency stay request to prevent the law from taking effect. Critics of the law provide that this would leave the state, which has nearly a million women of reproductive age, with only one doctor in a single clinic eligible to perform abortions.
Act 620 has been blocked since its enactment and is nearly identical to a Texas law which the Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on a vote of 5-3. In the decision, the Court held the Texas law “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.” Justice Kennedy sided with the liberal justices on the bench to cast the critical fifth vote.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the Louisiana law on a 2-1 vote. The full court, which is considered one of the most conservative of the appeals courts, voted not to reconsider the decision of the panel on a 9-6 vote. Four of the nine judges who case the vote to allow the panel’s opinion have been appointed by President Trump. In distinguishing this law from Hellerstedt, the panel reasoned that a majority of abortion providers in Louisiana did not make a “good faith” effort to obtain admitting privileges, which are easier to obtain in Louisiana than in Texas. One of the dissenting judges stated the judges in the majority relied on “strength in numbers rather than sound legal principles to reach their desired result in this specific case.”
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, granted the stay with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the Court’s liberals. However, as CNN Reports, the order will not prevent the Court from possibly taking up the case in the future. In dissent, Justice Kavanaugh argued that the stay is premature and unnecessary, as the law had a built-in 45 day “transition” period to see the law’s impact.
This post was written by ISCOTUS Fellow James O’Brien, Chicago-Kent Class of 2021, edited by Matthew Webber, ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro.