WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — In its first major abortion ruling of the Trump administration, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with abortion rights advocates Monday in a 5-4 decision.
The nation’s highest court struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the liberal bloc of justices.
Supporters insisted the law would protect women’s health and safety, while opponents argued it would force all but one of the state’s abortion clinics to close.
“The state passed this to protect the women of Louisiana. It’s a commonsense health and safety regulation,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA,) who helped defend the law in the district court trial of the case. “It’s a pretty devastating ruling for all states who seek to regulate in the area of women’s health.”
Johnson’s colleague in the House, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS,) said as a physician himself, abortion providers should be held to the same standards as other doctors.
“I’ve had to take care of complications of other abortions done by other doctors,” Marshall said. “Of course, I’ve never done one. I think that life begins at conception, and I believe in the sanctity of life.”
This was the first test on abortion rights for the newly-conservative Supreme Court after President Donald Trump appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the bench.
President Trump, who has been critical of recent SCOTUS decisions on DACA and LGBT workplace protections, remained mum on Twitter, but White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement the court’s decision “devalued both the health of mothers and the lives of unborn children.”
“That decision didn’t surprise me at all,” Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA) said.
Cartwright pointed to the similar Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that decision is ultimately why he sided with the liberal justices on the Louisiana law, even though he dissented on the Texas case.
“That’s consistent with his style really,” said Cartwright. “He understands the importance of staying within precedent.”
The case was thought to be the one that could overturn Roe v. Wade. While pleased with Monday’s ruling, abortion rights advocates said with a conservative majority still on the court, their fight to protect legal access to abortion isn’t over.
“It does little to stop the relentless attacks on abortion rights,” said the Center for Reproductive Rights, whose litigation director has now argued and won both cases before the Supreme Court. “Politicians no doubt will exploit today’s fractured decision to pass even more anti-abortion laws that undermine people’s rights and access to care.”
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