Abortion Survey

In this Monday, Jan. 24, 2011 file picture, anti-abortion and pro-choice activists stand next to each other in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington during a rally on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Americans, regardless of generation, are deeply conflicted as they wrestle with the legality and morality of abortion, with a substantial majority identifying themselves as both "pro-choice" and "pro-life," according to a sweeping new survey. The detailed and nuanced findings were released Thursday, June 9, 2011 by the Public Religion Research Institute, based on a survey of 3,000 adults _ one of the largest ever to focus on Americans' views of abortion. 

At the request of a pair of unnamed doctors, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide in the coming days whether to temporarily block a law that could shutter all but one of the Louisiana’s abortion clinics.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office has been given until Thursday afternoon to respond to the petition seeking an emergency stay until the high court has an opportunity to vet whether it’s legal for the state to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

If the emergency petition is granted, the admitting privileges law that opponents say could cripple access to abortion in Louisiana won't go into effect on Monday as scheduled.

Either way, the Supreme Court is likely to ultimately rule whether Act 620 is constitutional or unconstitutional down the road.

Because the application for the emergency hold is expected to be reviewed by the full court, Louisiana’s law is widely being viewed as the first major test of how President Donald Trump’s appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately impact abortion laws across the country. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh were not on the bench when a similar law in Texas was ruled unconstitutional nearly three years ago.

Both have testified that they see the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirms the right to access to abortions with limited restrictions as a settled matter, but the conservative jurists have drawn scrutiny from abortion rights advocates and some Democratic lawmakers.

The Texas law that, like Louisiana's, sought to require admitting privileges, was rejected on a 5-3 Supreme Court vote in 2016. 

Supporters of the effort here say it's meant to make the procedure safer in case of complications, while opponents say it's an onerous requirement meant to create additional hurdles for those seeking abortions.

“Once again, the plaintiffs are trying to block this common-sense measure that would protect women," Landry said in response to the latest movement. "Their arguments to the Supreme Court misrepresent the record; and the fact remains plaintiffs never acted in good faith to obtain admitting privileges.

"We look forward to this pro-women’s health law taking effect," he added.

Landry, a Republican, praised a recent 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that upheld what he views as a "common-sense measure that ensures women will receive proper care if they have complications.”

In their petition to Justice Samuel Alito, who first receives emergency appeals for the region that includes Louisiana, the doctors argue that women in the state, physicians and clinics will all be "irreparably harmed" if it were to take effect before the Supreme Court has its say and that there is "minimal benefit" to enforcing the law before then.

"On the other hand, the health, rights, and dignity of thousands of Louisiana women hang in the balance, along with the fate of the state’s three remaining clinics," their application states.

The crux of the argument against the law has been that it's modeled after the Texas law that the high court already struck down. But the 5th Circuit majority that agreed to uphold Act 620, ruled that “unlike in Texas, (Louisiana's law) does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women” and would affect, at most, 30 percent of Louisiana women.

Louisiana, which tends to be among states with the toughest restrictions on abortion access, has three remaining abortion clinics — one each in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. There were five when Act 620 passed the Louisiana Legislature in 2014. Opponents of the pending law say it would reduce the number further.

The request for Supreme Court intervention is backed by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“This law is designed to shut down abortion clinics and make it harder to open new ones,” said Kelly Krause, a spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The number of abortion clinics in Louisiana has fallen from 11 to 3 since 2001. The situation is dire, and this law could be the last straw for the few remaining clinics.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.