Opinion: Yet another abortion law wants to return women to the dark ages

Supporters of legal access to abortion and anti-abortion activists rally outside the Supreme Court in March 2016 during the case of Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt.
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

If a new Louisiana law goes into effect on Monday, Louisiana will join the abysmal ranks of states with only one abortion provider. The law demands that doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. This provision is medically unnecessary, and no less than the U.S. Supreme Court has said as much, striking down an identical requirement in Texas in a landmark abortion ruling (Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt) in the summer of 2016.

Despite clear guidance from the Supreme Court on what is constitutional and what is not, retrograde states like Louisiana refuse to give up on their agenda of turning this country back to a time when abortion was illegal and women took dangerous measures to have them anyway. Instead, these states pass laws that they know flout high court rulings in the desperate hope that either the laws will be allowed to operate under the radar or — even better from their point of view — spark the new right-leaning Supreme Court majority to take up the inevitable challenges and begin to undo the protections long in place for women seeking abortions.

That’s why the Supreme Court should grant an emergency request from the Center for Reproductive Rights for an injunction that will block this onerous law from taking effect while the center, representing three Louisiana women’s health centers, can petition the Supreme Court to hear the case. The center has been battling this law in federal courts since it was set to go into effect in 2014. (Mostly, it has been blocked by the courts since then.)


On Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito asked the state of Louisiana for a response. The state has until mid-Thursday afternoon to respond.

It was a bad law no matter when Louisiana passed it, but legislators could argue they did pass it before the Supreme Court ruled in 2016 on the Texas law about admitting privileges. Wisely, a federal district court ruled later in 2017 that it was unconstitutional. What was appalling was that a panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed that lower court’s decision and upheld the law in a 2-1 decision in September. The Center for Reproductive Rights called it a brazen disregard for the Supreme Court decision. And the dissenting judge blasted the other two for their “beyond strange” reasoning to get around the Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case.

There’s no question this onerous Louisiana law needs to be stopped before it starts on Monday. And, eventually, the Supreme Court needs to shut it down once and for all.