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Major Medical, Legal Groups Oppose Louisiana Abortion Law Before U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, seen in June. Next year the justices will hear arguments on a Louisiana law that could leave the state with just one clinic that performs abortions. [J. Scott Applewhite / AP]
The Supreme Court, seen in June. Next year the justices will hear arguments on a Louisiana law that could leave the state with just one clinic that performs abortions.

Several major medical groups and the American Bar Association are weighing in against a Louisiana abortion law set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

In a new amicus brief submitted to the court, medical groups argue the law – which requires doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have hospital admitting privileges – is medically unnecessary and harmful to patients.

The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics and others have signed on to the brief.

They write: "Laws regulating abortion should be evidence-based and supported by a valid medical justification. Because laws requiring clinicians who provide abortions to have local admitting privileges are neither, this Court should not allow them to stand, regardless of the state from which they originate."

As the brief notes, Louisiana's law, passed in 2014, is similar to one from Texas that was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case in 2016. But with two of President Trump's conservative nominees on the bench, opponents of abortion rights hope the court will uphold new restrictions.

If upheld, the requirement could shut down at least two of the state's three remaining clinics, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group is challenging the law on behalf of June Medical Services, which operates a clinic in Shreveport.

The American Bar Association has filed its own amicus brief, arguing that the law runs counter to existing precedent protecting abortion rights, and writing that the case "raises significant concerns about adherence to basic rule of law principles."

Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian at Florida State University College of Law, said the ABA is raising alarms about the larger implications of the case, "that this would set a dangerous precedent in terms of how the court respects its own previous rulings ... that if the court kind of willy-nilly disregards precedent, that that will damage the court's standing."

Close to 200 members of Congress, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, also submitted a brief opposing the Louisiana law.

Briefs supporting the state of Louisiana – which is asking the court to uphold the hospital admitting privileges requirement – are due Jan. 2.

In a text message to NPR, Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill said she was still reviewing the briefs and declined to comment directly, but said of abortion providers, "Women deserve better than incompetent providers that put profits over people."

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 4.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.