Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Back Louisiana Abortion Curbs
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to get admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Taking a stand in a case set for argument March 4, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the court might need to overrule a 2016 ruling that struck down a similar Texas law.
Opponents say the law would leave Louisiana with only one clinic, in New Orleans, and just one abortion doctor to serve the roughly 10,000 women who seek to end a pregnancy every year in the state.
The abortion showdown will be the court’s first since Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh took the bench. The court is likely to rule in late June, in the heat of the presidential election campaign.
The Trump administration brief joins a filing Thursday by 207 members of Congress, almost all Republicans, who urged the court to reconsider the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion-rights ruling.
The administration brief doesn’t go that far. It instead says the challengers -- a Shreveport clinic and two unidentified doctors -- haven’t shown the law imposes a “substantial burden” on abortion access, as required under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.
The brief puts the blame on the providers for any decrease in abortion services, saying three physicians hadn’t been diligent enough in seeking admitting privileges. The administration said one of those doctors had applied to only one of nine nearby hospitals.
“By failing to diligently pursue such alternatives,” the doctors “themselves are responsible for any resulting obstacles to a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion,” Francisco said.
Francisco also contends the providers can’t challenge the law on behalf of their patients.
The 2014 law requires doctors to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of the abortion facility. The measure was in effect for a brief period in 2016.
The law’s challengers told the high court in November that the measure “confers no health or safety benefit beyond existing law.”
“Such a negligible governmental interest is not enough under these circumstances to justify impinging a right that is truly central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment,” the clinic and doctors argued.
The 2016 Supreme Court decision appeared at the time to be the biggest abortion-rights victory in a generation.
The court said the Texas law “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an undue burden on their constitutional right to do so.”
The Louisiana case is June Medical Services v. Gee, 18-1323, and Gee v. June Medical Services, 18-1460.
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