Days before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in one of the biggest abortion rights cases in decades, reproductive rights advocates have asked the Court to step in and immediately block a different appellate court ruling that threatens to close all but one abortion clinic in Louisiana.
Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency petition on Friday asking the Roberts Court to immediately block a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed Louisiana’s admitting privileges law to take effect.
Passed in 2014 and signed by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), the measure requires that any doctor who performs abortions in the state must obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. In August 2014, attorneys representing Louisiana’s abortion providers sued to block the law from taking effect. A federal district court judge blocked the measure’s enforcement that month; the same judge continued to block it in January 2016.
Attorneys from the State of Louisiana filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit. On Wednesday, exactly one week before the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case challenging Texas’ clinic shutdown law, the Fifth Circuit issued a stay of the lower court ruling, saying Louisiana’s law could take effect while the state’s appeal continued.
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According to the petition filed Friday with the Roberts Court, as a result of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, all but two doctors in the state have been forced to stop providing abortions, “and one of those will shortly be forced to cease, absent relief from the Court.”
“One physician cannot possibly provide all abortions in Louisiana,” the petition states.
Advocates filed their request with Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees emergency filings from the Fifth Circuit. Justice Thomas has the option of granting or denying the request on his own, or sharing it with his colleagues. Should Justice Thomas share the petition with the full Court, five of the present eight justices will need to vote to grant the request and block the law while the appeal moves ahead.
The Court is not likely to act on the request until attorneys from the State of Louisiana have had an opportunity to file a response.