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.”

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

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