Supreme Court Will Rule on Louisiana Pro-Life Law That Could Shut Down Dangerous Abortion Clinics

National   Steven Ertelt   Oct 4, 2019   |   10:19AM    Washington, DC

The Supreme Court has announced it will take up a case concerning a pro-life law in Louisiana that could result in shutting down dangerous abortion clinics that can’t properly care for the health of women getting abortions.

The Louisiana law requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges for patient emergencies. Soon after it became law in 2014, the abortion facility Hope Medical Group for Women and the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights challenged it in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016, arguing it burdened women’s access to abortion. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Louisiana law in 2018, saying it “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”

The case will be a good indication of where Chief Justice John Roberts stands on abortion jurisprudence. Roberts, earlier this year, voted with the four liberal justices to block the enforcement of the Louisiana law in February. A ruling in the Louisiana case is due by the end of June.

In February, the high court granted an emergency request to stay a 2014 Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (Act 620) was previously upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously refused to stay implementation of the law.

Pro-abortion attorneys argued that the Louisiana law should be ruled unconstitutional under the precedent of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The Texas law required abortionists to have admitting privileges and required abortion clinics to meet the same standard as ambulatory surgical centers. However, the Louisiana law did not require clinics to meet the ambulatory center requirements.

The 2014 law requires doctors who do abortions to have hospital admitting privileges for patient emergency situations. It was sponsored by pro-life Democrat state Rep. Katrina Jackson, who spoke at the March for Life this year. The law was supposed to take effect this year and could have closed abortion facilities that could not protect women’s health.

But Chief Justice John Roberts joined the high court’s pro-abortion minority to prohibit the law’s implementation over the dissent of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch noted their dissent but did not join the Kavanaugh opinion. Oddly, Roberts joined the pro-life side when the Supreme Court ruled on a similar Texas law.

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Kavanaugh said he would have let the law go into effect but leave open the possibility of a new challenge if the doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges after 45 days.

“During the 45-day transition period, both the doctors and the relevant hospitals could act expeditiously and in good faith to reach a definitive conclusion about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges,” he wrote.

The law could have closed shoddy abortion facilities that are not prepared to help patients suffering from emergency complications. There are three abortion facilities in Louisiana: Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport.

Leading pro-life advocates were grateful the Supreme Court took the case.

Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), a Louisiana attorney who authored the 2014 law, said, “Together with my colleagues, our Legislature passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act by a wide bipartisan margin to protect the health and safety of women. We encourage the Supreme Court to overturn, or at least, alter or clarify, the Hellerstedt decision, allowing a state to enforce its duly enacted laws aimed at protecting the health and safety of its citizens. Abortion has known medical risks, and the women of this state who are often coerced into abortion deserve to have the same standard of care required for other surgical procedures.”

“We are encouraged that the Supreme Court is taking this opportunity to revisit its tragic 2016 Hellerstedt decision that struck down reasonable standards to protect the health and safety of women who undergo abortions,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Just weeks ago, the remains of more than 2,200 unborn children were discovered on the property of late abortionist Ulrich Klopfer, whose history of reckless disregard for vulnerable women and girls, including victims of rape and sexual abuse, got his license revoked. The abortion industry has shown no interest in regulating itself, or defending women from so-called doctors like Klopfer, Kermit Gosnell, James Pendergraft, Steven Chase Brigham, and more.

Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director for Louisiana Right to Life, said: “We look forward to the Supreme Court reviewing Louisiana’s 2014 Unsafe Abortion Protection Act. Abortion facilities should not be provided loopholes when it comes to health and safety standards that apply across the board to outpatient surgical facilities. We are also pleased that the Supreme Court has accepted Louisiana’s challenge on third-party standing. Substandard physicians and for-profit providers unable to meet health requirements should not be able to hide behind their supposed patients when making legal claims against a law.”

Meanwhile, abortion activists moaned that the law could shut down abortion facilities.

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The 2014 law requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges in case patients experience emergency complications. Soon after it became law, the Louisiana abortion facility Hope Medical Group for Women and the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged it in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016, arguing it burdened women’s access to abortion. In September 2018, however, the Fifth Circuit said the Louisiana law is different because it “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”

In upholding the Louisiana law in a 2-1 decision in September 2018, Fifth Circuit Judges Jerry Smith and Edith Brown Clement ruled that the Louisiana law’s impact is factually different from the Texas law in Hellerstedt and should be ruled constitutional even with the Hellerstedt precedent.

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, previously said the Fifth Circuit ruling was a victory for women’s health and safety.

“.. the goal of requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals was always about protecting women by ensuring the continuity of care in cases of emergency,” Clapper said. “Our law should never create special loopholes so that abortion facilities can operate in a sub-standard manner.”

Jackson, an African American pro-life lawmaker, was threatened by a Planned Parenthood director after introducing the law in 2014. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Director Melissa Flournoy resigned after she said she wanted someone to “kick her a–,” referring to Jackson.