US Supreme Court upholds abortion rights

by Maruf Adedeji

United States Supreme Court has defended abortion rights in a major ruling by striking down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics.

In its first abortion ruling of the Trump era, the US apex court on Monday 29 June, 2020, reconfirmed its commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices.

The new federal ruling has placed restrictions on doctors who perform the procedure and left anti-abortion advocates including the White House bitterly disappointed.

Chief Justice John Roberts with the four liberal justices unanimously ruled that a Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on doctors who perform abortions violates a right the court first announced in the landmark Roe v Wade decision in 1973.

But Roberts indicated his vote was a reluctant one and signalled he may back other abortion restrictions in future cases with some legal challenges already in view.

The 5-4 ruling represented a victory for Sheveport-based abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women in its challenge to the 2014 law.

Lawyers for Hope Medical Group say two of the three clinics that perform abortions in Louisiana, a state of nearly 4.6 million people, would have been forced to close if the law had taken effect.

The Republican-backed Louisiana law included a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have a difficult-to-obtain arrangements called “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 48km (30 miles) of the clinic.

“Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointed,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.

Presidents Donald Trump’s administration supported Louisiana in the case. Anti-abortion advocates had hoped the Supreme Court, with its 524 conservative majority, would be willing to permit a abortion restrictions like those being pursued by Louisiana and other conservative states.

“The ruling continues a heartbreaking line of decisions that places ‘access’ to abortion above the health and safety of women and girls,” said Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s Republican attorney general.

But, supporters of abortion rights have cautioned against complacency, saying that the decision is an end to the struggle over abortion rights in legislatures and the courts.

“We are relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today, but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the 1 million women of reproductive age in the state.

“But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the centre for Reproductive Rights.

Abortion has remained a devisive issue in the United States, as in many countries. Christians conservatives, an important political constituency for Trump, are among those most opposed to it.

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