Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US top court to hear abortion case



US top court to hear abortion case

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Anti-abortion advocates hold signs as they stand in front of the US Supreme Court while participating in the 47th annual March For Life in Washington, DC in January. AFP

US top court to hear abortion case

The future of abortion in the US could be at stake when the Supreme Court on Wednesday hears what may be its most significant case on the controversial subject in decades.

At issue is a state law in Louisiana which requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Pro-choice groups argue that the law would severely restrict access to abortion and lead to the closure of two of the three remaining abortion clinics in Louisiana.

The case, June Medical Services v. Russo, will be the first to come before the court since President Donald Trump appointed two conservative justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – to the nine-member panel.

“The case is significant because the law that is being challenged is more or less identical to one that the court struck down in 2016,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University.

“Switching court membership? Is that enough to undo a case?” asked Ziegler, author of “Beyond Abortion: Roe v Wade and the Battle for Privacy.”

Roe v. Wade is the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalised a woman’s right to an abortion.

Ziegler said the ruling in the Louisiana case “might tell you something about how the court might view other precedents, including Roe v Wade.”

Trump, who years ago described himself as “pro-choice in every respect”, has become a staunch opponent of abortion as he seeks to rally evangelical Christians behind his re-election campaign.

A ruling in the case is expected in June, just months ahead of the November presidential vote.

The Trump administration is backing Louisiana authorities in the case, as is a group of more than 200 Republican members of Congress.

The lawmakers argued in a supporting brief that the case illustrates the “unworkability of the ‘right to abortion’ found in Roe” and questioned whether it should be “reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled”.

Pro-choice groups say banning abortion entirely is the ultimate intent of the law in Louisiana and similar laws in other states that restrict the practice.

“These laws are actually designed to shut down clinics, and that’s exactly what they will do,” said Travis Tu of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“If this law goes into effect, all of the clinics in Louisiana will close except for one, and all the doctors will be forced out of practice except for one, leaving only one abortion provider for over a million women in the state,” Tu said.

The Louisiana law is part of a wider campaign being waged by opponents of abortion, he said.

“Throughout the US, from the federal government to the state government, we are seeing attacks on women’s reproductive rights like never before,” Tu said.

“Which is why it’s critically important the Supreme Court step in and remind everyone that women have a constitutional right to choose abortion.”

The Supreme Court case stems from a 2014 Louisiana law that requires doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 50km of the clinic where an abortion is being performed.

Louisiana, where about 10,000 abortions are carried out every year, argues that the law is needed to protect women’s health.

“Abortion carries known risks of serious complications that may require intervention in a hospital,” the state said in a brief for the court.

Besides protecting women, “the process for obtaining admitting privileges serves to vet physician competency,” it said.

The Supreme Court, in a five to four vote, blocked the application of the law in February last year but without delivering a final decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices on the bench in temporarily blocking the law. He is seen as the key vote this time around.

“He is a kind of a wild card,” Ziegler said of the conservative chief justice appointed by then-president George W Bush.

The court will also be deciding whether doctors who perform abortions have the legal standing to bring suits defending the practice.

Louisiana and anti-abortion groups argue that those physicians are motivated by self-interest and “don’t have women’s best interests at heart”, Ziegler said.

“If the court buys that, it will tell you a lot about how the court views not only abortion providers but abortion itself,” she said.

“That might suggest that the court is open to the argument that abortion is bad for women and that they don’t need abortion rights.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In