A Supreme Court ruling in a Louisiana abortion law case will keep a Shreveport clinic open for now.
But the undertones of one justice’s decision indicates there is more to follow. That suggests Louisianians ought not consider the issue resolved, experts say.
McKinzie Craig Hall, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said she was traveling Monday and hadn’t read the ruling by Justice Stephen Breyer. But she said Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted along with the four liberal justice to form a majority in Hope Medical Group for Women, was likely protecting court precedent in the case. The case concerned whether doctors providing abortions had to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
But Roberts seemed to indicate he was not wholly pleased with his vote and indicated he might rule differently in other cases on the same or similar issues. Hall said Roberts’ position in defending the doctrine of stare decisis or court precedence was one that Rehnquist frequently took. Hall said it was “in the mold of Rehnquist — former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
She said that Roberts remained a conservative ideologically, but suggested his decision was at least partially taken to safeguard the court because of the huge impact of precedence.
Amanda Montesano, Acadiana director for Louisiana Right to Life, said the decision would not discourage the organization and won’t have a direct impact in southwestern Louisiana, where there are no abortion clinics.
She said her organization works principally with educating young people about abortion. She said schools and organizations contact her group to teach — sometimes in weekend sessions — about issues related to abortion.
“It’s another battle, something else we will have to overcome,” she said. “Every decision, good or bad, is another thing that goes with the movement.”
She said that the pro-life movement extends over many religious faiths and even to some people who don’t have a religious faith. She said her organization did 90 events or classes in 2019; it has done 30 so far this year. She said some 1,300 Louisiana youths traveled to Washington for the March for Life.
“The youth I encounter, so many are so passionate about the pro-life movement. They will see this as another opportunity,” she said.
At First Baptist Church in Lafayette, the Rev. Ray Swift saw the issue in terms more broad than points on the political spectrum.
“The decision made Monday by the SCOTUS that struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics and specific to admitting privileges to hospitals should not be a discussion regarding liberals versus conservatives," he wrote in an issued statement.
"For the Christian community it has been and always will be a decision about the sacredness of life. In 1973 when the justices ruled in the Roe vs. Wade decision regarding the right to an abortion, it was wrong and in 2020 with this recent decision it is still wrong. It is the Biblical belief of the Christian community that all lives are sacred from the moment of conception to an individual’s last physical breath.
"As a long standing Bible-believing church in Louisiana we will continue to pray that very soon the murder of lives in the womb of a mother will end.”
Michael Pasquier, the Jaak Seynaeve professor of Christian Studies at LSU, said he doesn’t expect the decision to affect churches’ public positions.
“My thoughts are that the official position of the Catholic Church will remain the same when it comes to abortion and access to abortion. It will be a continuation since the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision in 1992, when the court ruled against undue burdens meant to hamper access to abortions.
“It’s a continuation of the status quo and discontent on part of many but not all Catholics who oppose abortion and are interested in finding ways to undermine intentions that came out of Roe vs. Wade,” he said.
The church’s position will not change, he said, although some Catholics will believe in women’s rights to choose to have an abortion.
“In places like Acadiana or southwestern Louisiana, Catholics who support the right for women to have abortions don’t have a pronounced voice in public debate,” he said. “Many Catholics are nonetheless pro-choice.”
He said it is not easy for Catholics or anyone else to talk about sex and reproduction, which makes it difficult to discern who many Catholics in South Louisiana or in Acadiana support a woman’s right to choose.