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Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion clinic law

Updated: June 29, 2020 06:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

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Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates the abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Mark Sherman, a Supreme Court reporter with the Associated Press, said there is no reason to believe Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative appointed by George W. Bush, has changed his overall views on abortion since he issued his own opinion on the ruling.

"This is the first time in an abortion case that the Chief Justice has been on the side of abortion rights," Sherman said. "Now, the law that the court struck down today was very similar, in fact, Roberts said nearly identical to a law that the court struck down in 2016 from Texas. And Roberts was a dissenter in 2016. But he said and he said he continues to think he was he had the right vote four years ago. But nevertheless, he recognizes that it's important for the court to stand by its prior decisions."

The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. Those include bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks, and the almost total ban passed in Alabama.

"The abortion-rights groups, while they celebrated today's victory, they were more relieved than elated, and they acknowledged that this fight is not over," Sherman said. "There are four firm votes on the court on either side of this issue, and then there's the Chief Justice who has now, at least in one case, voted on the abortion-rights side. But they're not taking his vote for granted for sure and any future cases."

A trial judge had said the law would not provide health benefits to women and would leave only one clinic open in New Orleans, Louisiana. That would make it too hard for women to get an abortion, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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