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Citing precedent, ABA urges rejection of Louisiana abortion law

The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief on Dec. 2 with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the justices to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The ABA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Louisiana abortion services case.

The ABA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Louisiana abortion services case.

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The ABA brief, filed in June Medical Services LLC. v. Gee, noted that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit conflicts with the Supreme Court’s decision in a similar case in 2016. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the high court ruled 5-3 that a nearly identical Texas law imposed an undue burden on women seeking a legal abortion and thus was unconstitutional.

“Such inconsistency suggests the appearance of arbitrariness that stare decisis seeks to avoid,” the ABA brief said, citing the Latin term that establishes the legal principle in the United States to stand by prior Supreme Court decisions.

In Whole Woman’s Health, the brief pointed out, the Supreme Court previously “concluded that the admitting-privileges requirement in the Texas law was not medically necessary and did not advance the asserted goal of protecting women’s health.” Neither the Louisiana law nor the lower court record differs enough to reach an outcome distinct from Whole Woman’s Health, the brief said. If the Fifth Circuit’s decision is allowed to stand, it would present a “stark… inconsistency between what is an acceptable law concerning abortion services in Louisiana, as opposed to Texas and the rest of the country,” the brief added.

In August, the ABA House of Delegates approved policy that “urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to refrain from imposing upon reproductive healthcare providers requirements that are not medically necessary” or interfere with women’s access to such services.

The Supreme Court has set March 4, 2020, for oral arguments in the case.

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