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LOUISIANA ABORTION LAW WILL BE HEARD BY U.S. SUPREME COURT

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to hear oral arguments surrounding a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a hospital within a 30-mile radius — a case that could shape the future of legal abortion in the country.

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, will mark the first major abortion case the court will hear since the nomination of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch by President Donald Trump. Those appointments gave the highest court a conservative majority.

The 2014 law has not yet gone into effect due to legal challenges. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — a court that covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and whose rulings tend to skew more conservative — upheld the law in September 2018. It was set to take effect in February until the Supreme Court put it on hold.

Abortion rights activists argue that Louisiana's law is nearly identical to a Texas admitting privileges law that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2016 and that the case should have been heard without oral arguments. In its Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling, the court stated that Texas' restrictions on the procedure must not place an "undue burden" on women seeking it. They also argue that the law would leave only one physician able to provide abortions in Louisiana and close two of the state's three remaining clinics.

“Louisiana is openly defying the Court’s 2016 ruling that states can’t use sham medical regulations to shut down clinics,” said Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, an organization that advocates for abortion rights. “We are hopeful that the court will uphold the rule of law, protect our constitutional rights, and be independent of partisan politics. The people of Louisiana shouldn’t be denied their rights because of where they live.”

But anti-abortion activists like Dorinda Bordlee, a consulting attorney to the anti-abortion group Louisiana Right to Life, argued that the Texas law differed from Louisiana's law because it required abortion providers to meet the strict standards required of surgical centers.

“Louisiana’s law does not include the ambulatory surgical center requirement, and the facts of Louisiana’s different geography and demographics necessitate a different result,” Bordlee said in a February statement.

The Supreme Court begins its session Oct. 7 and hasn't announced when it will hear the case, but a ruling could come by next summer.

In its ruling, the court could reverse the Fifth Circuit Court's ruling, uphold it or entirely reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established a woman's right to legal abortion prior to the fetus' viability on the basis of privacy.

The court has not yet decided whether it will take up an Indiana case challenging a 2016 law that would require a woman to have an ultrasound — and be given the choice to view the image and listen to the heartbeat — 18 hours before obtaining an abortion. — KAYLEE POCHE

Trump tweets support for Edwards’ GOP challengers

If you were wondering whether President Donald Trump would weigh in on the Louisiana gubernatorial race, wonder no more. Trump took to Twitter last week to rally Louisiana GOP voters, though he didn't pick a favorite between U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham or businessman Eddie Rispone, the two leading Republican contenders seeking to oust Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

"Republicans of Louisiana, it is really important for you to go out and vote on October 12th for either Eddie Rispone or Ralph Abraham (both Great), which will lead to a runoff against a Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer Democrat (John Bel Edwards), who does nothing but stymie all of the things we are doing to Make America Great Again,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t be fooled, John Bel Edwards will never be for us. Early voting has already started!"

His son and adviser, Donald Trump Jr., already had expressed similar sentiments, but, like his father, the younger Trump refused to take sides in the campaign.

Rispone and Abraham, both of whom have made their fealty to the president a cornerstone of their campaigns, were quick to use the tweet in their own social media blitzes, while Edwards seized on the opportunity to launch an email fundraiser.

"Friends, this is urgent: Donald Trump just attacked me on Twitter," Edwards' email said. "With less than two weeks left in the race, this attack could mean the difference between winning and losing. We can't let it go unanswered, but we need the resources to fight back. My campaign just set an emergency goal to raise $25,000. It's an ambitious goal, but with President Trump coming after me, it's absolutely critical that we hit it."

If the Oct. 12 election results in a runoff between Edwards — who is close to a majority in some polls — and either Rispone or Abraham, many in the GOP would like to see Trump come to Louisiana for a rally in support of the Republican candidate. Vice President Mike Pence planned a rally at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner last weekend. — KEVIN ALLMAN

Rispone gets a ‘Duck Dynasty’ nod

Willie Robertson, CEO of the West Monroe-based company Duck Commander and one of the stars of the faux-reality show "Duck Dynasty," has weighed in on the Louisiana governor's race — and his choice is Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

"I was born here. Raised my family and built our company here," Robertson says in a 30-second endorsement video. "Louisiana means everything to me. That's why I'm endorsing Eddie Rispone for governor.

"He may not be the slickest or the smoothest, but he's not a career politician," Robertson adds.

"Willie endorsed @realDonaldTrump in 2016 for being the political outsider," Rispone said in a tweet, "and I am honored to have his support as the only conservative outsider in this race." (Rispone didn't mention that in 2015, before Robertson went for Trump, he was supporting former Gov. Bobby Jindal for president.)

Original episodes of "Duck Dynasty" aired from 2012 to 2017, and an endorsement from members of the Robertson family were a coveted part of any conservative Louisiana politician's campaign during that time. In 2013, Robertson endorsed Vance McAllister — like Rispone, an "outsider" and political newcomer — for Louisiana's 5th District seat in Congress. After McAllister won and subsequently declared the job "sucks," Robertson family patriarch Phil Robertson threw his support behind another outsider, Robertson cousin Zach Dasher, who lost.

In the 2015 governor's race, the Robertson clan supported former U.S. Sen. David Vitter over the eventual victor, Gov. John Bel Edwards. An ad with Willie Robertson — with the two men dressed in camouflage — was produced, stressing Vitter's contrition and redemption after his prostitution scandal.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of Robertson family patriarch Phil Robertson. The by-then-requisite commercial with the two men sitting in a duck blind in camouflage clothing and face paint followed soon thereafter.

“My qualifications for president of the United States are rather narrow," Robertson said. "Is he or she godly? Does he or she love us? Can he or she do the job? And finally — would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo?” — KEVIN ALLMAN

‘Burning Cane’ gets November Netflix release, will screen at New Orleans Film Festival

Phillip Youmans, the 19-year-old NOCCA graduate whose first film, "Burning Cane," won top honors at the Tribeca Film Festival, will see his award-winning movie debut on Netflix starting Nov. 6.

The movie, set in rural Louisiana and starring Louisiana natives Wendell Pierce and Karen Kaia Livers, was written, directed and shot by Youmans when he still was a high schooler. At Tribeca earlier this year, it won the prizes for Best Narrative Feature, Best Actor (for Pierce) and Best Cinematography.

"Burning Cane" also will have a brief run in theaters in Los Angeles and New York, and it's one of the featured pictures at the New Orleans Film Festival, where it will be shown Oct. 19. — KEVIN ALLMAN

The Who at Jazz Fest 2020? Looks that way

Discussion of the 2020 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival lineup is off to an early start after band member Pete Townshend said he believes The Who is scheduled to perform at the event.

After The Who canceled concerts in Dallas and Denver due to band member Roger Daltrey’s bronchitis, Townshend posted a message to Instagram Sept. 29 in which he apologized for the cancellation and mentioned parenthetically that the band’s tour would include the 2020 Jazz Fest.

A similar social media slip happened earlier this year, when Mick Jagger posted an Instagram video spilling the beans that the Rolling Stones were coming to Jazz Fest — a poorly kept secret that nonetheless stole the announcement thunder from Jazz Fest organizers.

The Who performed at Jazz Fest in 2015. — WILL COVIELLO