Pro-life, pro-choice forces look ahead after La. abortion law is blocked by Supreme Court

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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block a Louisiana law related to abortion services has got the attention of locals and people around the country.

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Pro-life and pro-choice forces both hope the court’s ultimate decision on the law ends up being in their favor.

"We're relieved. We know that many women across Louisiana are also deeply relieved that the court exercised its authority to block implementation of this law,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

"We're a little disappointed the law's not going into effect right now. It's been over four years since we passed this law, so we think it's time for it to go into effect,” said Ben Clapper, of Louisiana Right to Life.

At issue is a law which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The law is similar to a Texas measure that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

In response to the high court stopping Louisiana’s law from taking effect, Governor John Bel Edwards issued the following statement:

“As a pro-life Catholic, I will always advocate for laws that protect the dignity and sanctity of life. I voted for the bill in 2014. I urge the Supreme Court to act quickly in this matter, so Louisiana may move forward.”

Tulane University constitutional law expert Keith Werhan said the law is a test for the high court which now has a conservative-leaning majority.

“It’s actually the first invitation to the new court to cut back on abortion rights. So, it’s very similar to what we’ll see from a number of state legislatures who are going to enact restrictive laws which are not consistent with existing precedent, in the hope that the new court will change course and uphold them,” said Prof. Werhan.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in putting a hold on the law, pending further review of the case. While Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the other more conservative justices who would have allowed the law to take effect. Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent explaining his vote.

“While Justice Roberts is unclear, Justice Kavanaugh is not that unclear,” said Werhan.

Clapper said the law aims to keep women safe.

"In 2014 when we first looked to doing this law, we found out that all outpatient health facilities except abortion had to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. We thought it was somewhat ridiculous that there was this abortion loophole for the health standards of our citizens. We thought we should even the playing field,” Clapper stated.

Werhan thinks it would be difficult for abortion providers to get admitting privileges at hospitals.

"In practice, it's enormously restrictive because many hospitals will not give privileges to abortion providers,” said Werhan.

There is rampant speculation that if Louisiana’s law is allowed to take effect that could open the door to reversing Roe v. Wade.

"It would be an erosion,” Werhan said.

“We know that the stated intent of the legislation is to provide more protections for women in abortion operations, but what we know is that the actual effect is that several clinics have closed down since the implementation of this law, so it really acts to limit access to women, especially in their attempt to attain safe abortion care,” said Hebert.

Clapper disagrees.

"This law is different than the core holdings of Roe v Wade…this is about protecting the health and safety of women in cases of emergency,” he said.

And while the Supreme Court weighs the merits of Louisiana’s law, some in the pro-life community say they are exploring whether to seek other laws related to abortion services in the state.

"We’re still looking at a few options for this coming legislative session. Nothing that we have [made] public yet. But we’re always looking to see how we can protect the health and safety of women in our state,” said Clapper.

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