Washington, March 4: The US Supreme Court appeared divided after over an hour of arguments Wednesday concerning a controversial Louisiana abortion access law that critics say will leave just one doctor in the state to perform the procedure.
Key justices indicated that they could be poised to uphold the law that is similar to a Texas law the Court struck down just four years ago. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh both asked questions suggesting that the Louisiana law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges in local hospitals could serve a valid purpose.
But Roberts’ vote could be essential, and at the end of oral arguments it wasn’t completely clear where he would come out.
The case marks the first time President Donald Trump’s nominees — Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — have heard an abortion-related dispute at the high court. Supporters of abortion rights fear the Court’s solid conservative majority is poised to cut back or even gut court precedent. It comes as Republican-led states are increasingly emboldened to pass laws that mark a potential rollback of abortion rights.
Justice Samuel Alito emerged as the strongest and most vocal supporter of the law and even questioned whether the doctors and clinics could actually bring the challenge because they might have a “conflict of interest” with the women seeking abortion. The doctors’ interests in new regulations, Alito suggested, may not align with a patient seeking treatment.
Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas said nothing.
While Louisiana argues the law will increase public safety, supporters of abortion rights say it will have a disastrous impact on women.
The liberal justices, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, strenuously questioned the law, suggesting it was unnecessary and the procedure is safe.