WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court of the United States blocked on Thursday the implementation of a restrictive abortion law in the state of Louisiana in a 5-4 ruling.
With five votes in favor, four liberals and conservative Chief Justice John G Roberts Jr., and four against – the rest of the conservatives – the top court blocked the implementation of the law to study its constitutionality.
The contentious law makes it compulsory for doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.
Women’s groups have been arguing that the law has no medical justification and would restrict abortion.
Around 10,000 women seek abortions in Louisiana every year, and, according to them, if the law came into force it will allow only one physician to carry out abortions in the state legally.
President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were among the four conservative members of the court who voted in favor of the law’s implementation.
Thursday’s decision on abortion is the first one by the Supreme Court on the hot-button issue since the controversial confirmation of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh had voted with the conservatives and filed a dissent where he said he would have allowed the law to come to force in the state to ascertain if it adversely affected women’s access to abortion.
Thursday’s ruling was hailed by abortion rights advocates but disappointed pro-life groups, who want the Supreme Court to reverse the abortion law, which was legalized in 1973.
The top court had ruled a similar Texas law to be unconstitutional in 2016.
In the 2016 decision, five justices – one conservative – had declared it unconstitutional as it was found to offer no benefits to women’s health while restricting women’s right to seek abortion.
The judgment on the Texas law was considered to be one of the most significant decisions by the Supreme Court on abortion since it was legalized in 1973.
In the last few years, several conservative states have imposed restrictions on abortions, citing religious rights or women’s health.