The Supreme Court Thursday ruled to strike down a Louisiana abortion law that reproductive health advocates warned would deal a fatal blow to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision barring states from criminalizing abortion.
Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the four liberal justices on issue a temporary stay to the law, which critics say would have left the entire state with just one abortion clinic and pave the way for future attempts to gut Roe, The New York Times reported.
The court is likely to hear a challenge to the law next term, which begins in October.
The case was very similar to a case in which the court struck down a similar law in Texas in 2016. Roberts voted in favor of upholding the law in that case, but voted to uphold the Supreme Court precedent on the case Thursday.
The newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, voted along with the court’s three other conservatives to uphold the law, acknowledging the precedent but saying he wanted to know more about the specific effects of the law.
Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative justice who occasionally sided with liberals on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Roberts is no pro-choice ally:
Roberts has consistently voted to uphold other laws restricting abortion, including the Texas law that nearly mirrored the Louisiana law.
“The Louisiana law, enacted in 2014, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals,” The New York Times reported. “In 2017, Judge John W. deGravelles of the Federal District Court in Baton Rouge struck down the law, saying that such doctors were often unable to obtain admitting privileges for reasons unrelated to their competence and that the law created an undue burden on women’s constitutional right to abortion.
“The law, Judge deGravelles ruled, was essentially identical to one from Texas that the Supreme Court struck down in a 2016 decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority in that decision, said courts must consider whether the claimed benefits of laws putting restrictions on abortion outweigh the burdens they placed on the constitutional right to the procedure.”
Critics worry SCOTUS will gut Roe:
“Now that the Court has stopped enforcement of the law, it must decide whether to hear the appeal. If it decides not to take the case, the stay issued on Thursday would end automatically and the law would go into effect,” wrote Vox’s Anna North. “If the Court does decide to take the case, it will have to decide whether to follow the precedent set in Whole Woman’s Health, striking down the Louisiana law, or reverse itself and uphold the law. In the process, it could decide to overturn the protection for abortion rights set forth in Roe v. Wade.”
“If the Court agrees to hear June Medical Services v. Gee, advocates on both sides will be watching Kavanaugh closely, as the future of abortion law in America may be at stake,” North added.