There has been a small victory in the battle for reproductive rights. Yesterday, February 7th, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a restrictive abortion law from taking effect in Louisiana. According to The New York Times, SCOTUS voted 5-4 to issue a temporary stay (aka block) in the case. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has previously voted in favor of restricting abortion access, sided with the court’s four liberal judges. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—both appointed by President Donald Trump—were among the four judges who voted to enact the law, with Kavanaugh publishing the dissenting opinion (because of course).
The court’s ruling does not permanently strike down the Louisiana law. The Times notes that starting in October, the court will be able to hear appeals on its decision. Other than Kavanaugh’s dissent, none of the justices have publicly explained their votes.
CNN reports that if the Louisiana law had taken effect, it would have required abortion providers to have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic. This would leave just one doctor in the entire state able to perform abortions. Laws that require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges have grown more common over the years, and reproductive rights advocates argue that they place an undue burden on clinics. As the Washington Post reported in 2014, it can be hard to obtain admitting privileges if doctors live too far away or if hospitals refuse on the basis of their religious affiliations. In fact, according to NBC News, in 2016, SCOTUS struck down an admitting privileges law in Texas. The ruling came after the Texas law had forced half of the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors.
We’re breathing a sigh of relief that SCOTUS blocked Louisiana’s abortion law for now. We just hope it eventually gets struck down for good.