A federal appeals court on Friday refused to put the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law on the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied motions by Louisiana Atty. Gen. William Guste to expedite a hearing on the issue and to certify issues in the case for immediate Supreme Court review.
The three-judge circuit panel gave no reasons for the decision.
“Obviously, this is not going to be the speedy process that we hoped it would be,” Guste spokesman Steve Watsky said after the ruling. Guste was out of his office Friday and could not be reached for comment, Watsky said.
The law, enacted this summer, would send doctors who perform abortions to jail for up to 10 years, with possible fines of up to $100,000. It would allow abortions only to save a mother’s life or, under strict guidelines, in cases in which pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
William Rittenberg, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said other states that passed anti-abortion laws before Louisiana are now more likely to have their cases reach the Supreme Court first.
“And that’s fine with me,” said Rittenberg, whose organization is leading the federal court fight against the law. “Louisiana has enough shame against its name.”
Rittenberg said it could be six months before the 5th Circuit decides on the constitutionality of the Louisiana law.
Watsky said the Louisiana law, because it is the most restrictive in the nation, is still likely to reach the Supreme Court, even if it is not the first case considered.
Abortion opponents are hoping that one of the restrictive abortion laws will give the high court the legal ground on which to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
Utah and the U.S. territory of Guam also have strict anti-abortion laws that could be used to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Pennsylvania has an abortion law that is less restrictive but also could be used to challenge Roe.