In a major blow to abortion opponents, the US Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana state law passed in 2014, requiring doctors performing abortions to have active admitting privileges at a hospital within 48km of the abortion clinic.
States pursuing abortion clinic restrictions frequently cite that these regulations are meant to protect the health or life of patients, as abortions could be performed only by doctors granted permission by a local hospital to admit a patient, in case something goes wrong.
However, abortion-rights activists support that patients rarely need to be hospitalized after the procedure.
The court’s decision was the first abortion ruling since US President Donald Trump kept his promise and two conservative, anti-abortion appointees joined the court.
“A different five Members of the Court conclude that Louisiana’s admitting- privileges law is unconstitutional because it ‘would restrict women’s access to abortion to the same degree as’ the Texas law in Whole Woman’s Health,” the Court’s slip opinion reads.
The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four liberal judges to rule that Louisiana’s efforts to restrict access to abortion were unconstitutional. Roberts, who did not join an opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, had, in previous abortion cases, supported more restrictions on abortion procedures.
“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” said Roberts, who casted the fifth and decisive vote, adding that “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”
The previous years, following the adoption of laws restricting access to abortions, several clinics closed as their doctors could not find a hospital that would allow them to admit privileges. Similarly, the Louisiana law could have left the southern state with only one abortion clinic.
Since 1973, when the Court found that women have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, in the case Roe v Wade, several states have attempted to impede access to abortion services.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the sexual health care and reproductive rights advocate, tweeted on Monday the court’s ruling, citing, however, that restrictions are still in place for “far too many people,” due to “racist and discriminatory barriers to care”.