Supreme Court could go either way on abortion case threatening access to pregnancy termination

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, proved she’s still got it
when the Supreme Court
began hearing arguments Wednesday
in a case that could chart a
new course in the fight for abortion rights for women in
Louisiana. A 2014 state law, only being blocked temporarily,
would require doctors looking to perform abortions to have
admitting privileges at hospitals their patients are highly
unlikely to seek services at. If it is allowed to take effect, the
law would mean only one doctor would be authorized to perform
abortions in Louisiana, according
 The New York Times. 

Justice Ginsburg gave early indications she wasn’t prepared
to let that happen passively. She dissected arguments supporters
of the law made and slowly dismantled each one on
constitutionality in what took more than an hour,
according to
CNN. But by the end of the first day, it was
unclear which way the court as a whole leaned, according to several
media reports.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t
seem to want to oppose the court’s decision to find a similar
Texas law unconstitutional in 2016, according
USA Today. It’s no secret though, that Roberts generally
has sided with laws that place tighter restrictions on abortion
services, and when he was a chief justice during the Texas case, he
voted to uphold the law restricting abortion rights,
according to
Real Clear Politics. Ginsburg, however, questioned
“what sense” it made to force doctors to have admitting privileges
at a hospital within 30 miles, when women are more likely to go to
a nearer facility if complications arise.

That should have been the heart of discussion Wednesday, but
arguments also narrowed in on an unexpected issue regarding who was
raising the legal challenge, abortion providers represented by June
Medical Services. The state argued that the case should be tossed
out before justices even had a chance to get to the meat of the
law because of a legal concept known as third-party standing, CNN
reported. Law professors Leah Litman and Steve Vladeck wrote in a

blog post
about the Supreme Court case that the concept
basically is “a claim that abortion providers are not the proper
parties to challenge anti-abortion laws.” 

Ginsburg, however, seemed to see straight through the
last-minute attempt to derail the case. “Would you have done
anything different,” if the issue had been “timely raised,” she
asked an attorney challenging the Louisiana law. Julie Rikelman,
the attorney, responded: “We certainly could have submitted
additional evidence.”

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