NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana pro-choice and pro-life forces reacted to the U.S. Supreme court striking down Louisiana’s law which required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Kathaleen Pittman is an administrator at Hope Medical Group in Shreveport which was a plaintiff in the litigation that made its way to the highest court in the United States.
“Six years, six, very, very long years; to say we’re elated hardly begins to come close to what we are feeling,” Pittman said shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision.
Sen. Katrina Jackson was a state representative when she authored the bill several years ago. She criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling which struck down the law.
“They ruled against women’s healthcare, they ruled against qualified physicians being required,” said Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, Louisiana.
Julie Rikelman argued the case before the high court on behalf of those who challenged the Louisiana law.
“Chief Justice [John] Roberts clearly did say that this law is unconstitutional, that it imposes an undue burden to abortion access in Louisiana and again that is critical for people’s access on the ground,” said Rikelman.
Pittman was asked about the immediate response at the clinic when the decision was learned.
“It’s palpable, the excitement in the air and everybody’s trying to calm down so that they can take care of patients,” she said.
But Jackson who was in the state capitol building when she reacted said the Supreme Court got it wrong.
“Once again unelected justices have substituted their policy preferences over the clear will of the people of my great state. As long as the Supreme Court continues to meddle in an area that rightfully belongs in the Democratic process, women will remain subject to substandard abortion facilities,” Jackson said.
During a press conference soon after the court’s decision Louisiana Right to Life, a pro-life group, commented on the ruling.
Angie Thomas is a lawyer with Louisiana Right to Life.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court has continued its abortion distortion, that laws can apply to everyone else except for the abortion industry,” said Thomas.
Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s four liberal justices to torpedo the law. Roberts was appointed by former President George Bush.
Professor Stephen Griffin teaches constitutional law at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“Abortion rights proponents have a victory, but Chief Justice Roberts did drop some hints that in a properly brought case he would consider the basic precedence, Roe and Casey,” said Griffin.
Thomas said Robert’s wording gives them fuel to keep fighting.
“And what this means to us is that we can continue to fight for incremental legislation that will help women and will help unborn children and we will never stop fighting for that,” she said.
Griffin said Louisiana’s law mirrored a Texas law the court did not uphold.
“It’s identical to this Texas case called Whole Woman’s Health where the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that imposed various requirements on doctors in abortion clinics and because the Louisiana law was so similar to it the prediction was if the court did not want to overturn Roe or anything like that, that they would strike down the Louisiana law,” he said.
Griffin added that Justice Roberts is trying to preserve the court as a judicial institution.
“He said a lot about the importance of precedent and so he doesn’t want to be seen in any way, shape or form as acting as a legislature, or maybe more importantly acting in response to political pressure,” said Griffin.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was in the legislature before being elected as governor, issued the following statement:
“Throughout my career and life as a pro-life Catholic, I have advocated for the protection, dignity and sanctity of life and will continue to do so. While I voted for the law in question and am disappointed, I respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision and trust that Louisiana and our nation will continue to move forward.”
And people on both sides of the abortion issue agree the court’s ruling on the Louisiana case will not be the end of court battles.
Nancy Northup, is President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which fought the Louisiana law and continues to challenge dozens of other abortion laws enacted by states around the country.
“Worries are not quelled about the ongoing battle on upholding the constitutional right to access abortion and the fact that the two newest justices were in dissent does not quell our consent,” Northup said.
Griffin said the Louisiana law involved one of the earlier cases to work its way to the Supreme Court.
“There’s almost a tidal wave of abortion litigation going through the lower courts,” Griffin said.
The ACLU of Louisiana and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast praised the court’s ruling.
A statement from Petrice Sams-Abiodun, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships - Louisiana, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast reads:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for Louisianans, especially Black and brown communities, who face overwhelming barriers to health care. For far too long, communities of color have carried the burden of systemic racism resulting in limited access to essential health care and poor health outcomes. The Court reaffirmed what we have known all along: It is unconstitutional to restrict abortion until it is inaccessible. When Louisiana politicians chose to defy precedent with the admitting privileges law, and put people’s health at risk, it was a blatant attempt to stamp out access to safe, legal abortion in an already limited landscape. Today we celebrate, but with a restored commitment to continue fighting for equitable access to essential health care. All people of Louisiana deserve the right to make private health care decisions without political interference.”
Alanah Odoms Hebert, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, made the following statement:
“We are tremendously relieved that the Supreme Court has struck down this law that would have decimated access to abortion in Louisiana – but this fight is not over. Coming just four years after the Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical law, today’s 5-4 decision is a chilling reminder that the fundamental right to abortion remains on tenuous ground. As politicians continue to wage an all-out war on abortion access here in Louisiana and across the country, these restrictions disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities – putting their health and their bodily autonomy further at risk. This decision should motivate all of us to stay in the fight against these politically-motivated attempts to block people from care – and hold our elected officials accountable for ensuring reproductive freedom for all.”