Supreme Court Steps In To Protect Abortion Access in Louisiana
Nation’s highest court blocks Fifth Circuit ruling that would have closed all but one clinic in the state. Order comes two days after oral argument at Supreme Court in challenge to similar Texas law.
(PRESS RELEASE) With only one Justice dissenting, the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to suspend a recent ruling from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which would have shuttered three of the four remaining abortion clinics in Louisiana. Today’s order—which allows the two Louisiana clinics immediately forced to close by the Fifth Circuit’s ruling to reopen their doors and protects another clinic from imminent closure- comes two days after oral argument at the nation’s highest court in a challenge to a similar clinic shutdown law in Texas.
Notably, the ruling states the order is “consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v Cole“—the Texas case currently before the Supreme Court.
The Louisiana measure—which was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal in June 2014 and forces any doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital–will remain blocked while the litigation continues. If the majority of Louisiana’s clinics were to have remained shuttered, the closest provider of safe and legal abortion for many women in the state would have been in Jackson, Mississippi—a clinic that is only open due to a court order obtained by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“For the third time in a little over a year, the Supreme Court has stepped in to preserve women’s ability to get the constitutionally-protected health care they need.
“Our Constitution, along with nearly half a century of legal rulings, is clear that women have the right to make critical decisions about their life and health without interference from politicians. These underhanded tactics to cut off women’s access to safe, legal abortion simply cannot stand.
“Just two days after arguing our case before the Supreme Court to strike down a similar sweeping law in Texas, we look to the Justices to put an end to these sham measures threatening women’s rights, health and lives across the U.S.
Ilene Jaroslaw, David Brown, and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias, Marc Hearron, David Scannell, Kerry Jones, and Tim Gallivan from Morrison &, Foerster, and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC filed the challenge to Louisiana’s clinic shutdown law on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic, and Bossier City Medical Suite in August 2014 (Causeway Medical Clinic closed in January 2016). A federal district court judge blocked the measure from taking effect the same month, the same judge continued to block the measure in January 2016. On February 24, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an emergency stay of the federal district court decision from late January, immediately closing two of the remaining four clinics in the state and threatening to close another were it not for immediate Supreme Court relief.
The Supreme Court is also currently considering a similar clinic shutdown law in Texas, oral argument in that challenge took place on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 and a ruling is expected before the end of the Court’s term. The Fifth Circuit has issued three separate opinions in over two years (October 2013, October 2014, June 2015) regarding that law which shuttered clinics in Texas, two of three orders were effectively reversed because the Supreme Court intervened to keep the clinics open.
Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than a quarter of 1 percent of patients experiencing a major complication. Furthermore, privileges can be very difficult to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases against abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications. Earlier this year, the nation’s leading medical experts–including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as organizations representing pediatricians, nurses, family physicians, osteopaths, hospitalists and public health specialists—united in opposition to clinic shutdown laws like Louisiana’s in amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reject Texas’ clinic shutdown law.