Kavanaugh Gives Mixed Signals in First Supreme Court Abortion Ruling - Hit & Run

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Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Susan Collins everything from "a raging fool" to an utter dupe for helping to put him on the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts broke with the Supreme Court's other conservative justices and his own voting record on abortion to block a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The district court that initially ruled the law unconstitutional was very detailed in its fact-finding, which made it clear that the law would place an undue burden on women's right to abortion. It also expands who can provide abortion services by allowing licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives to provide abortion services.

"The supreme court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women", said Nancy Northup, the CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights.

Michaelson proposes an analogy in which a law is passed that requires doctors who perform abortions to "wear polka dotted shirts with striped ties and clown shoes", and argues that by Kavanaugh's logic, if the doctors could obtain the clothes, this would not constitute an "undue burden".

Since then a number of conservative states have enacted new abortion restrictions that could lead to legal challenges that allow the Supreme Court to sharply curtail the right to abortion procedures.

A stay means a compelling possibility exists that a majority will ultimately decide a lower-court decision was in error.

The pro-life movement's hopes are the justices will review and uphold the Fifth Circuit decision.

Brian Fallon, the director of Demand Justice, a liberal group that opposed the Kavanaugh nomination, said the group will launch a digital ad buy of more than $10,000 next week in ME to inform voters of how Collins' vote for Kavanaugh helped lead to the ruling Thursday. While a federal judge struck down the law, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed the decision in a 2-1 ruling in September. The Court granted that request Thursday night.

After decades of relative stability under the court-imposed Roe precedent, the ground on abortion rights in the U.S. could be shifting.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor to grant an emergency stay while the case proceeds.

The four more conservative justices, including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, would have allowed it to take effect.

Kavanaugh and Roberts joined the four liberal justices in their December decision not to review the appeals regarding the removal by Kansas and Louisiana of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. If the remaining three doctors could obtain admitting privileges, "then the three clinics could continue providing abortions", Kavanaugh wrote in his dissent.

Louisiana now has three abortion clinics and four abortion doctors, only one of whom has the admitting privileges required by Louisiana's (yet to be enforced) law. But first, suggests Kavanaugh, the doctors should try to get admitting privileges.

Kavanaugh voted against the injunction and wrote an independent dissent.

If it turned out they couldn't comply, Kavanaugh said, the doctors could return to court.

Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributor to National Review, said in a February 8 post he does not think Roberts' vote for the stay "signals anything about how he will rule on the merits of the case". Admitting privileges are hard for abortion providers to obtain because too few of their patients are likely to seek hospital care, as well as because of ideological opposition from hospitals.

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