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US Supreme Court Overturns Louisiana Law Restricting Abortion

WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court overturned on Monday a law that would have severely restricted access to abortion in Louisiana, dealing a heavy blow to the campaign undertaken by several conservative states to restrict to the max the medical procedure that has been legal in this country for almost half a century.

The decision was the first related to abortion that the high court has taken since the two conservative justices nominated by President Donald Trump – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – joined the body. Both men were selected in large part because of their opposition to abortion.

Although both voted to uphold the Louisiana law, they remained in the minority because Chief Justice John Roberts, also a conservative but one who has sided with more liberal justices on various occasions, this time once again joined the four progressive justices to declare that law unconstitutional and thus invalid.

The ruling means that the Louisiana clinics can remain open to provide abortion services to women, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, who defended one of the state’s medical centers in the suit.

If the high court had let the law stand, two of the three clinics that still offer abortions in Louisiana would have had to close and only one of them would have remained open with just one doctor on staff to attend to all the women desiring abortions, Northup said during an interview with EFE in April.

Louisiana’s Act 620, approved in 2014, demanded that doctors providing abortions in the state have admitting privileges at hospitals within a radius of 30 miles from the clinic where they conduct their procedures.

Defenders of the right to abortion denounced the law as an attempt to “close the clinics,” because those admitting privileges are very complicated to acquire and, in their judgment, are unnecessary in the case of a procedure that is so safe – as interrupting a pregnancy is known to be in medical terms.

The high court had ruled in the same way in 2016 to strike down a Texas law; however, since that time Kavanaugh has joined the court, replacing retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, and abortion opponents had thought that they might be able to get even more substantial abortion restrictions implemented at this point.

Abortion activists and a Louisiana clinic that filed the lawsuit in the name of its patients, however, had hoped that the high court’s ruling on the Texas law – which was practically identical to the Louisiana legislation – would work in their favor, and they were right.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion on this occasion, agreeing with a federal trial court that had ruled that the Louisiana law “poses a ‘substantial obstacle’ to women seeking an abortion” and “offers no significant health-related benefits.”

“The law consequently imposes an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion,” Breyer wrote.

In the past few years, numerous conservative states have approved laws substantially restricting access to abortion with the declared aim of forcing the Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US.

The Republican Party – and in particular its broad base of evangelical, white and conservative Christians – has made opposition to abortion one of the key issues for Trump’s re-election campaign.


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