Abortion activists plot next moves following Supreme Court ruling

Activists say as many as 16 other abortion-related cases around the country could end up at the Supreme Court.

Reproductive Rights - Abortion
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC during the March for Life in 2018 [File: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

A ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday striking down limits on access to abortion was seen a victory for reproductive rights, but experts warned that supporters and foes alike would regroup to plan their next move over the contentious issue.

The nation’s top court struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors performing abortions to have a sometimes difficult-to-obtain formal affiliation called “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles (48km) of the clinic.

The court ruled that the requirement provided no significant health benefits and imposed on women’s constitutional right to abortion, which was set out nationwide in a landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Monday’s decision marked the second time that the court has ruled against an admitting privileges requirement, following a 2016 ruling that struck down a similar law in Texas.

While supporters of reproductive rights claimed a victory, they cautioned that as many as 16 other abortion-related cases around the country have the potential to be heard by the Supreme Court.

“What we saw today was really a reaffirmation and a rehashing of the 2016 Texas case, and it came down to the same conclusion,” said Elizabeth Nash, interim associate director of state policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and policy organization.

Now, she added: “Everyone goes back to the drawing table and reevaluates their strategy.

“Those who support abortion rights are looking into this case to see how they can roll back abortion restrictions, and abortion opponents are looking to see how they can shift their own strategy,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

At the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, Executive Director Eric Scheidler said abortion opponents were disappointed with the Supreme Court, even as its two newest members were appointed by Republican President Donald Trump.

Trump promised during his 2016 campaign to appoint justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.

The court needs at least one, if not two, more such judges to be appointed, Scheidler said.

“We’ve been hearing that the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade any day now. I’ve always been sceptical of that claim,” he said. “We need to be passing out fliers, reaching out at abortion facilities, talking to our politicians.”

A wave of anti-abortion rights measures has been passed by Republican-led state legislatures in an effort to prompt the court to overturn its landmark ruling, especially since Trump’s election in 2016.

“States were jockeying for position around whose case would be the first to make it to the Supreme Court,” Nash said.

Andrea Miller, head of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, a pro-abortion rights group, expressed relief that people in Louisiana would continue to have access to abortion.

“But there’s no telling what will happen next time an abortion case comes before the court,” she said in a statement.

Source: Reuters