Pa.’s Shapiro urges U.S. Supreme Court to reject Louisiana abortion restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (Flickr Commons)

WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania and 20 other states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a Louisiana law that critics argue places an undue burden on women seeking abortions. 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in March in the abortion dispute, which promises to be one of the highest-profile cases before the court this term and which could have implications for reproductive rights across the country. 

The amicus brief was submitted to the high court this month by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with the attorneys representing 20 other states and the District of Columbia. 

“Whether it’s the Trump administration’s proposed Title X gag rule to limit family planning services or attempts by some states to illegally block medication abortion clinics, the challenges to the law of the land are real and threaten women’s lives,” Shapiro said in a statement. “As the Supreme Court decided when it struck down a similar Texas law that required admitting privileges, these bad ideas fail to advance any state’s concept of supporting women’s health.” 

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The justices announced in October that they will hear an appeal involving the Louisiana law, which requires any physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. That restriction, critics say, is unconstitutional because it offers no benefits to women’s health that could justify the burdens on abortion access.

The high court previously struck down a similar law in Texas, but the court’s stance on the issue may shift following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the court’s liberal wing in the Texas case. Kennedy was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who previously voted against an effort to temporarily block the Louisiana law.

The states said in their brief that they have “a substantial interest in the fair and consistent application of well-settled precedent — including the long-recognized substantive due process right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and the undue-burden standard that governs review of regulations implicating that right.”  

The Supreme Court’s own precedent, the states told the justices, requires the reversal of the lower court opinion that upheld the Louisiana law. 

Pennsylvania was joined in the brief by New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

A separate brief urging the high court to strike down the Louisiana abortion law was filed this month by 36 U.S. Senators and 161 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree from Maine’s federal delegation have signed onto the brief.

“For nearly half a century,” the lawmakers wrote, “this Court has reaffirmed that the Constitution guarantees a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy without unnecessary government intrusion.” They warned that “non-uniform recognition of federal constitutional rights creates a patchwork of laws in which one’s constitutional protections are honored or denied based solely on where one lives.” 

The case, June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, is scheduled for oral argument on March 4.