The Trump administration has decided to get involved in a potentially significant legal battle over a Louisiana abortion regulation.
The White House has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that it uphold a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals located in the same geographic area of their clinics, the Daily Caller reported.
The Louisiana law, known as Act 620, is currently being challenged in court by an abortion clinic and two physicians. Those parties are trying to prevent the statute from taking effect, and some pro-choice advocates are even arguing that the regulation could lead to the closure of all of the state’s existing abortion clinics, effectively eradicating the procedure across Louisiana without having to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to CBS News.
According to current law, for the Supreme Court to strike down the Lousiana statute as unconstitutional, those challenging it must show that the law itself — not something else — creates a substantial burden on those looking to obtain an abortion. The Trump administration pointed out the reason for this requirement in its brief.
“Otherwise, abortion providers could effectively veto disfavored legislation by asserting that compliance is too difficult or objectionable and threatening to leave practice if forced to follow the law,” the White House wrote, according to the Daily Caller.
What the Trump administration is contending is that the regulation is not the problem and that those opposing it have simply refused to make a good faith effort to comply with the law. In other words, the administration opines that the perceived burden and the potential closing of abortion clinics would be the fault solely of those challenging the law, and thus, the regulation itself ought to stand.
To support its position, the Trump administration points to examples of the challengers’ unwillingness — rather than their inability — to comply.
One abortion provider, for example, openly admits that a qualifying hospital would indeed grant him the required admitting privileges, as long as he would agree to secure the services of a designated backup physician in the event he is unavailable for his patients — something the doctor has declined to do. Another abortion provider is said to have only applied to receive the necessary credentials from just one of nine qualifying hospitals.
Potentially problematic precedent
The saving grace for the law’s challengers may be the 2016 Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in which the Supreme Court struck down a law that was, by and large, the same as Lousiana’s, finding that it constituted an undue burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
According to the Trump administration, however, a potential snag for opponents of the law is that the abortion providers themselves don’t really have the proper legal standing needed to challenge the statute. In other words, the Supreme Court is being urged to reject the challenge on technical grounds.
The argument is that the providers have patently different interests in the outcome of the dispute than their patients do, and therefore, they cannot stand in their shoes in court, which is what they are trying to do in this case.
How the justices are likely to rule in this critical dispute remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Trump administration has asked to participate in oral arguments, which are slated to take place on March 4, according to The Epoch Times.