In a country that's already on edge over the issue of abortion, last week’s news about Louisiana's clinic law set off plenty of panic. Thanks to some misleading headlines, a lot of people were under the impression – wrongly – that the Supreme Court had struck down the state's policy on hospital admitting privileges. They didn't – but, as Chief Justice John Roberts made everyone quite aware, the law still has plenty of hurdles ahead.
Like other state measures regulating abortion, the liberal groups challenging Louisiana's barely waited for the governor's signature to dry before taking the case to court. In some instances, the law is put on hold – like this one has been since 2014. Louisiana leaders were hoping, once the suit wound its way through the legal process, that an appeals court would at least let the policy take effect while the judicial questions were sorted out. Not too long ago, the Fifth Circuit Court granted that wish, ruling 2-1 that the state could implement the law since they didn't believe it placed an “undue burden” on women to travel to a doctor with hospital admitting privileges.
Realizing that the decision could temporarily shut down two of Louisiana's three remaining abortion centers, extremists asked the Supreme Court to step in and delay the law. Last night, with the help of Justice Roberts and the four activist justices of the court, SCOTUS did. Obviously, the result was hugely disappointing to pro-lifers, who'd hoped to finally set the wheels in motion for the safety standards they'd passed almost five years ago. And it was all the more surprising that a George W. Bush appointee to the court joined with the liberal wing to stop them.
Like a lot of people, I hate to see the justices step in and stop any reasonable clinic regulations like this one. After all, this issue actually has nothing to do with abortion. It's about women's safety, which the other side claims to care about – but refuses to prove in any case involving medical standards. All Louisiana was trying to do – and I know, since I authored the first regulation of its kind as a state legislator in the 1990s – is ensure that if something goes wrong during the procedure (and all too often, it does), the doctor has an agreement with a local hospital (in this case, no more than 30 miles away).
This should be standard medical practice. After all, most doctors – whether they're in a dental office or a surgical center – are required to have admitting privileges with a local hospital. But for some reason, when it comes to abortionists, a lot of states let them off the hook. That's deeply concerning, given the complications that arise with a procedure as dangerous as abortion. As our new Top 10 Myths about Abortion publication points out, the risk of death by abortion increases 38 percent each week after the first two months. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, everyone should agree that women deserve to know their doctors have taken the necessary precautions.
Of course, as a lot of people point out, it's difficult for abortionist to get these privileges. A lot of times, The Washington Post points out, “hospitals are reluctant to enter into such relationships with physicians who specialize in such a controversial procedure.” Others object on religious grounds or don't want the liabilities associated with abortionists' terrible track records. Or, they only admit in-state physicians – which throws a wrench into the most radical abortion wing, who flies abortionists in and out of the state, leaving women completely alone for any post-surgery issues.
In any case, it's a common-sense law that the left is eager to eliminate. The media's celebration last week, however, may have been premature. Five justices may have put the brakes on the policy now, but there's no way of knowing how the court will rule if and when the case comes before them. Based on Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh's dissents, there is good reason to think the president's new justices would like to see the lawsuit resolved.
On one hand, it's disappointing that Louisiana can't move forward with a democratically-enacted policy. On the other, we support the rule of law. And short-circuiting the process wouldn't help nearly as much as a full and complete vindication.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Family Research Council.