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Meanwhile, more liberal U.S. states have begun implementing their own laws to ensure abortion rights for their residents in case the court takes such a dramatic step. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh opposed the stay.
Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributor to National Review, said in a February 8 post he does not think Roberts' vote for the stay "signals anything about how he will rule on the merits of the case". At the time, Collins, who supports abortion rights, said she did not believe that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Louisiana now has three abortion clinics and four abortion doctors, only one of whom has the admitting privileges required by Louisiana's (yet to be enforced) law. It exists because... a law with no scientific basis is itself an undue burden.
He added that if they cannot, "then even [Louisiana] acknowledges that the law as applied might be deemed to impose an undue burden". The statute, which requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, is essentially identical to a Texas law struck down as unconstitutional in the 2016 Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The court on a 5-4 vote granted an emergency application by Shreveport-based abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women to block the Republican-backed law from going into effect while litigation continues. Had Kavanaugh written that Louisiana "pinky promised to not violate the law", his reasoning would have been no less absurd. The difference between then and now is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the decisive fifth vote in the 2016 Texas case, retired last June and has now been replaced by Trump appointee Kavanaugh. But it has never gone into effect.
Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state's three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law.
The Center for Reproductive Rights - representing patients, clinics and doctors in the state - had asked the justices to put the law on hold before it was slated to go into effect on Friday, while the Center prepared briefs asking the justices to review the legality of the law.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said her organization "is disappointed that a bare majority of [justices] continued to stay the enforcement of a commonsense safety measure that will protect Louisiana's women from substandard abortion practitioners".
The supreme court voted late on Thursday evening to stop the law in Louisiana. "Here, only one doctor at one clinic is now unable to obtain privileges", Judge Jerry Smith wrote for the panel, reported the Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, Smith maintained the the Louisiana law did not impose "an undue burden" on women seeking abortions.
"Texas doctors could not gain privileges, all but 8 of 40 clinics closed". Gee reveals how his views could allow for laws that reduce access to abortions, The Daily Beast reports.
In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal. The vote was 5-4, and Roberts voted with the conservative bloc in the minority. "But somehow, when a conservative lower court merely allows a state to mind its own business in a case that might brush up against a recent Supreme Court decision he himself disagreed with and now has the votes to overturn, Roberts parachutes in to overturn the lower court". Justices could decide to bring the case before the court as soon as this spring.