Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law


“Louisiana is poised to deny women their constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion with an admitting-privileges requirement that every judge in the proceedings below — the District Court, the panel majority and the dissenters — agrees is medically unnecessary,” the challengers wrote in their application in the case, June Medical Services v. Gee, No. 18A774.

“One doctor at one clinic cannot possibly meet the needs of approximately 10,000 women who seek abortion services in Louisiana each year,” they wrote. “Some of these women will attempt self-managed abortions, seek out unlicensed or unsafe abortions or be compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.”

Lawyers for the state responded that the law would be administered in a cautious way, with no immediate changes. The challengers were wrong, the state said, to assert that “Louisiana abortion providers will immediately be forced to cease operations, with dire consequences.” The law will take effect, the state’s lawyers said, as part of “a sensitive regulatory process that should begin in an orderly way.”

The challengers disputed that, saying that doctors without admitting privileges would risk immediate civil, criminal and professional liability if they performed abortions after the law became effective.

“Given the number and severity of the law’s penalties, no clinic or doctor without admitting privileges will continue to provide abortions” once the law becomes enforceable, they wrote. “Irreparable harm to women in Louisiana, therefore, is imminent.”

In his dissent on Thursday, Justice Kavanaugh said he would have provisionally denied the stay to let the factual questions be sorted out. Notably, he said that the Texas decision was “the governing precedent for purposes of this stay application.”

The Fifth Circuit, he wrote, had predicted that the four doctors who provide abortions at three clinics could obtain admitting privileges. There was no dispute as to one of the doctors, he wrote, leaving questions about three of them.

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