The United States Supreme Court will hear a case out of Louisiana on Tuesday that could significantly increase states' ability to enact laws restricting abortion and make it harder for doctors or clinics to challenge them in court, CBS News reported.
What's the case?
June Medical Services v. Russo is a case that challenges a 2014 Louisiana law known as the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act. That law requires doctors and abortion clinics to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital in order to operate. Pro-abortion advocates view the law as a backdoor way to severely restrict abortion access, while the stated intent of the law is to ensure the safety of patients at abortion clinics.
A federal judge struck down the law based on a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that blocked an allegedly similar law in Texas. But an appeals court reversed that decision, saying the Louisiana law was different enough from the Texas law that it could stand, with one of the reasons being that driving distances in Louisiana were not as great in Texas, so the impact of potentially fewer abortion clinics in the state was less significant.
A question at the heart of this case is whether doctors or clinics have legal standing to challenge state regulations. If it is determined that they don't, it could become more difficult for abortion advocates to oppose pro-life laws.
What could the impact be?
Opponents of the admitting privileges law say that hospitals often only extend admitting privileges to clinics that will regularly send patients. Since abortions are generally safe, they argue, it is difficult for them to get admitting privileges. Additionally, some medical institutions in a place like Louisiana don't want to be associated with abortion. So an admitting privileges requirement would effectively eliminate most abortion clinics in the state.
While bans on abortion procedures are often struck down due to Roe v. Wade, bans on abortion access are another way states could limit abortion. Louisiana is certainly a state that would seek to eliminate abortion to any extent possible under the law, and a win in this case would be a huge step toward that.
"If the court allows the Louisiana law to stand, we will probably look back on this case as the acceleration of the total demise of the right to abortion in this country," said Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights at the National Women's Law Center, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Without overruling Roe, the court could gut what is left of the constitutional right to abortion."
Where do the justices stand?
This case takes on additional interest due to the current makeup of the Supreme Court, including the most recent additions of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices to put the Louisiana law on hold until a full appeal, but the conservative lean of the court presents a real chance of a legal win for pro-life advocates after arguments have been heard.