https://www.dw.com-A law in the state of Louisiana seeks to make abortion less accessible. A US Supreme Court ruling could have consquences for the future of Roe v Wade.
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in an abortion case which is likely to have ramifications for the future of the procedure in the country. This is the first time since President Donald Trump appointed two new conservative justices that the court has heard a major case on women’s reproductive rights.
The case centers on a law in the state of Louisiana which, if enforced, could make it harder for women to get an abortion in the state. The law, temporarily blocked by the court in a 5-4 vote last year when it agreed to hear the case, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic. Admitting privileges refers to the right of doctors to admit patients to a certain hospital. These privileges can be difficult to obtain and hospitals have the right to refuse applications.
Roe vs. Wade
The case brings to the fore the debate on abortion rights, which is one of the most divisive issues in American society. The US Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 in the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling. Reaffirming its decision in 1992, the court prohibited laws that seek to place an “undue burden” on abortion access.
Donald Trump, in his 2016 election campaign promised to appoint justices who would overturn the Roe vs, Wade ruling. As Trump seeks reelection in November, he is looking to galvanize support among anti-abortion activists, particularly Christian conservatives who remain his core constituency.
His administration, along with more than 200 Republican lawmakers, has come out in support of Louisiana. The case shows the “unworkability of the ‘right to abortion’ found in Roe,” the lawmakers said in a supporting brief. They also question whether the ruling should be revisited by the court, “and, if appropriate, overruled.”
Supreme Court precedent
A similar legislation imposing admitting privileges restrictions in Texas was struck down by the court in 2016, as it placed “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to get an abortion. Abortion rights activists argue that the Louisiana law is doomed by the Supreme Court precedent.
“Nothing has changed that would justify such a legal about-face,” said Julie Rikelman, the lawyer appearing on behalf of the Louisiana abortion clinic seeking to invalidate the law.
Hearing amid protest
As the arguments in the case were being heard, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer held a rally outside the Supreme Court, hitting out at the Trump’s appointees; Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh — you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said.
The Chief Justice reacted sharply to what he called “threatening statements.”
“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Roberts is expected to be the deciding vote in the case, the ruling for which is due by the end of June.