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Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Case From Louisiana

Mr. Landry has questioned whether abortion providers should be able to challenge the law at all. “Incompetent and unsafe providers,” he said in a statement, “should not be allowed to challenge health and safety standards designed to protect women from those very providers.”

A divided three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the Louisiana law last year notwithstanding the 2016 decision, saying that the law’s benefits outweighed the burdens it imposed.

“Unlike Texas, Louisiana presents some evidence of a minimal benefit,” Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote for the majority. In particular, he wrote, “the admitting privileges requirement performs a real, and previously unaddressed, credentialing function that promotes the well-being of women seeking abortion.”

In November, the Supreme Court granted a last-minute request from abortion providers to block the law while they pursued an appeal in the case, Gee v. June Medical Services, No. 18-1460. That interim ruling featured an unusual 5-to-4 coalition, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals. He had dissented in the 2016 decision.

The meaning of Chief Justice Roberts’s vote to block the Louisiana law is contested, and it is hardly certain he will vote to uphold the law on the merits. Instead, he might have meant only to ensure an orderly process in which the Supreme Court, rather than an appellate panel, decides whether to limit or overrule a recent Supreme Court precedent.

The evidence on where Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh stand on abortion rights is fairly thin, but it all points toward skepticism. Chief Justice Roberts, for his part, has voted to uphold restrictions on abortion.

Justice Gorsuch has written little about abortion. But in a 2006 book on euthanasia and assisted suicide, he argued that a key 1992 abortion precedent, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, should be interpreted narrowly.

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