US top court strikes down law limiting abortions

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Anti-abortion protesters seen outside the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a law that restricts abortion in Louisiana is unconstitutional in a historic decision.

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The law required doctors who performed abortions to admit privileges at nearby hospitals, which, according to the judges, would place an undue burden on women.

Judge John Roberts joined liberal judges in decision 5-4 in a coup for anti-abortion groups.

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The court adopted a similar policy in Texas in 2016, the opinion noted.

This is the first major Supreme Court abortion case during Trump's presidency.

Louisiana's 2014 law said doctors should have privileges in hospitals less than 30 miles from their practice – which the state argued was to protect women's health.

But critics said the controversial law would limit the number of professionals in the state, violating women's right to abortion.

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What was the case?

Medical Services vs. Russo asked the Supreme Court to decide whether to uphold a lower court's opinion on Louisiana law.

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The law required doctors to admit privileges to a hospital "less than 30 miles from where abortion is performed or induced" to perform abortions.

While the state said the requirement was to protect women's health, advocates of the choice said it was incredibly rare for women to face complications from an abortion. They also pointed out that many hospitals in the region are religious or conservative and do not allow abortions on their premises, which severely limits the number of doctors who can perform the procedure.

This in turn places an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to seek an abortion, they said.

A district court agreed that the law was unconstitutional; however, the 5th Circuit appeals court ruled that no clinic "would likely be forced to close" because of the law and allowed it to remain.

The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to decide whether that decision violated previous precedents and should be overturned.

Increasing conservative anger

Conservatives were given one more reason to be furious with John Roberts.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, gave the decisive vote to overturn a Louisiana law that regulated abortion providers.

Roberts' critics will find little comfort in his argument that, although he disagreed with a five-year court precedent in a similar case, he was forced to respect it. The other Republican-appointed judges, including the two appointed by President Donald Trump, were all willing to direct the court to allow greater restrictions on abortion.

This decision, as well as recent participation in gay rights and immigration, suggests that the Supreme Court's ideological disposition will be at stake again in the next presidential elections in November.

Roberts' decisions were often narrow and technical in nature – reminding liberals how tenuous his victories were and giving Republicans hope that a real conservative majority is just one more compromise away.

Four years ago, an open seat on the Supreme Court helped Trump bring dubious conservatives to his side, while Democrats seemed less concerned about the court's ideological future. That may have been enough to lead Trump to his very clear victory.

The president can expect history to repeat itself.

What did the judges say?

Writing the majority opinion, Judge Stephen Breyer disagreed with the 5th Circuit's reasoning to defend Louisiana's restrictions.

Judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan adhered to Judge Breyer's opinion. Judge Roberts agreed, but offered a separate opinion, noting that the reason for the decision was because of the court's decision "four years ago invalidating an almost identical Texas law".

Judge Roberts, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, noted that he disagreed in the Texas case, but the question in today's case was not whether that precedent was right or wrong, "but whether it should be followed".

Court conservatives, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, disagreed.

Judge Thomas wrote: "Today the majority of the Court perpetuates its unfounded case law on abortion, by adopting a perfectly legitimate state law and by doing so without jurisdiction."

Judge Thomas also disagreed with the fact that the suit was filed by abortion providers, not by the women themselves, saying that for most of the Court's history, "he held that private parties could not bring an action to claim rights constitutional rights of individuals who are not before ". The court".

"Our precedents on abortion are gravely wrong and must be set aside," he wrote.

Advocates for abortion rights said, however, that forcing women to challenge their own abortion laws will limit the number of challenges, as many patients lack access to financial and legal resources.

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