News Law and Policy

Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Admitting Privileges Law

Imani Gandy

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked a law that would have left Louisiana with only one doctor to perform abortions in the state.

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked a law that would have left Louisiana with only one doctor to perform abortions in the state.

The law at issue, Act 620, was signed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in June 2014. It mandates doctors who provide abortion care must obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The law was scheduled to begin on September 1, 2014, which gave doctors 81 days from the day the bill was signed until it took effect to obtain privileges.

As Rewire previously reported:

Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) sued in August 2014, arguing the act was impossible to comply with and unduly burdened abortion rights. A federal court issued a temporary restraining order that month, allowing the provision to take effect but blocking enforcement of the law while doctors tried to meet the requirement.

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The federal court in June 2015 held a six-day trial and in January of this year ruled the law should be blocked. Louisiana immediately appealed, asking the court to stay its decision blocking the law while that appeal proceeded. The court denied the request. Louisiana appealed that denial to the Fifth Circuit, which agreed Wednesday to overturn the lower court and allow the admitting privileges law to go into effect.

CRR sought emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that because of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, all but two doctors in the state have been forced to stop providing abortions and have been turning away women with scheduled appointments. The petition further notes that one of the two doctors would be forced to cease providing abortions if the Supreme Court did not intervene.

CRR attorneys warned that absent the Court’s intervention, “women’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to obtain an abortion will be lost, and their lives will be permanently and profoundly altered.”

In a brief order, the Court nullified the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that permitted the law to go into effect, providing a last-minute reprieve for patients in Louisiana seeking abortion care.

The order says little about the Court’s reasoning—only that a similar stay had been issued blocking Texas’ admitting privileges provision from going into effect until it had an opportunity to issue a ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have stated that there is “no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges.”

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