The Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion protections on Monday, striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction that, if allowed to be implemented, could have made the state the first to be without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade.
The decision — with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring with the court’s four-member liberal minority — is the court’s first major abortion rights decision since two Trump appointees took the bench, delivering a major win to abortion rights supporters who’ve been concerned about the court’s new ideological makeup and how that would impact the future of abortion access.
Thursday’s 138-page decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, found Louisiana’s restriction — which requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital — violated precedent set in the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling, a case that dealt with a nearly identical regulation in Texas.
In his opinion, Breyer wrote that Louisiana’s law was “unconstitutional.”
“This case is similar to, nearly identical with, Whole Woman’s Health. And the law must consequently reach a similar conclusion,” Breyer wrote. Chief Justice Roberts did not join Breyer’s opinion but concurred with the ruling on the basis of maintaining precedents previously decided by the Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs in the case, known as June Medical Services v. Russo, challenged Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” a law that has been blocked by courts since its passage in 2014. Supporters of the law say it was designed to improve patient safety, but critics say its intention was to shut down clinics that provide abortion.
Major professional medical organizations — including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — disagreed with the health claims, saying that given the safety of the procedure, admitting privilege laws for abortion providers are medically unnecessary.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm that challenged the law, praised the decision on Monday, but added that abortion rights remain uncertain.
“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow,” said Nancy Northup, the center’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement emailed to CBS News on Monday. “[T]he Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president, sounded a similar warning, saying “the fight is far from over.”
“While today is a victory for Louisianans, we must remember that we are in a world where politicians have pushed basic health care almost out of reach for millions of Americans, and where your ability to access abortion is still determined by where you live, how much money you make, and in this country that effectively also means the color of your skin,” McGill wrote in a statement to CBS News.
The White House called the Monday’s decision an “unfortunate ruling,” and defended states’ authority to regulate abortion.