The United States Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the abortion clinic restrictions case out of Louisiana, and due to the urgency of the matter, has issued an administrative stay of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision until February 7.
As the short order issued by the Court on February 1 explained, the stay is due to the timing of action rather than the merits. The filings for the application for a stay in the case had not been received until February 1, and the law would be taking effect on February 4. Rather than ruin the whole Court's weekend, Justice Alito penned an order to give his colleagues a few more week days to consider this controversial topic.
What's the Issue?
The big talked-about issue in the case involves the "admitting privileges" requirement the state imposed on doctors that working at clinics providing abortion services. And while it seems reasonable that a doctor performing a medical procedure would have "admitting privileges" at a nearby hospital, in reality, it effectively operates to prevent doctors from performing the procedures entirely.
This is because getting admitting privileges involves a tedious and potentially political process; additionally, some clinics providing abortions are located outside the 30-mile radius from the nearest hospital, making the requirement impossible to fulfill.
If this case sounds familiar, that's because it should. A strikingly similar case out of Texas went up to SCOTUS in 2016. In that case, the High Court ruled 5 to 3 in favor of the clinics, striking down the law. However, the Fifth Circuit reversed the lower district court's striking down the law in Louisiana, meaning that if SCOTUS doesn't step in, the Louisiana restrictions will actually take effect.
Making the matter even more controversial, much has changed on the High Court since the 2016 decision, and the proponents of the Louisiana law are hoping the shift in political balance on the Court turns the decision in their favor. How the Justices rule on the stay application may provide some insight as to what the Court will ultimately decide.