Supreme Court blocks Louisiana law that would restrict abortion providers

The Supreme Court in a victory for abortion-rights advocates on Friday blocked Louisiana from enforcing a law that they said would have left the state with only one doctor licensed to perform the procedure.

The justices, by a 7-1 vote, issued a brief order that restores an earlier judicial ban on enforcing the 2014 law.

The court's order is a good sign for abortion-rights groups in Louisiana and nationwide.

Coming shortly after the justices debated a similar Texas law, the order shows a majority of the high court is unwilling to permit conservative states to enforce stringent regulations.

A federal judge had blocked Louisiana from enforcing a rule that would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The judge found most hospitals simply refused to consider extending these privileges to a doctor whose practice involved abortion.

Because the medical benefits of the law were "minimal," the judge said enforcement would put an undue burden on women seeking abortion.

But on Feb. 24, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had earlier upheld the Texas abortion law, lifted the judge's order blocking enforcement of the Louisiana law.

Abortion-rights lawyers filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court via Justice Clarence Thomas. Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas agreed to handle such appeals arising from the 5th Circuit.

Abortion-rights groups said that if the admitting privilege rule were enforced, "the state of Louisiana will be left with a single abortion provider. That lone doctor, working in one clinic, cannot meet the need for approximately 10,000 abortions in Louisiana, a need that was previously met by six physicians in five clinics across the state."

The order will keep the law on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the Texas case.


by  David G. Savage, LA Times

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