U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided in abortion case


Supporters of abortion rights and anti-abortion activists rallied outside of the Supreme Court, Wednesday, while inside, justices appeared divided over a major case that could make it harder for women to obtain the procedure.

The court - with a 5-4 conservative majority - heard arguments regarding a 2014 Louisiana law that requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

...which opponents say, would force the closure of two of the state’s three abortion clinics.

Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights - the legal advocacy group behind the challenge, says the law has no medical benefits for women.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, NANCY NORTHUP, SAYING:

"In the courtroom today it's clear the stakes in this case are both the rights of women and the rule of law. …. It’s an underhanded law that is designed to bar access to abortion to which the constitution guarantees.”

The liberal justices, including the court’s three women, appeared skeptical toward the law while the conservative justices seemed more receptive.

Though Chief Justice John Roberts - a conservative who is considered the court's ideological center and represents the potential decisive vote - questioned whether the court should be bound to its 2016 ruling that struck down similar restrictions in Texas.

Those supporting the new law – pushed back.

Louisiana Solicitor General, Liz Murril:

(SOUNDBITE)(English) LOUISIANA SOLICITOR GENERAL, LIZ MURRIL, SAYING:

“Everything about our case was different. We didn’t keep this litigation going because we wanted to defy the precedent, we kept it going because everything about our case is different, and we should be able to protect the health and safety of women. We know that there are serious complications from abortion... these doctors and these clinics have no idea what their complication rates are.”

Activists who oppose abortion are hoping the Supreme Court, with justices - Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – both appointed by President Trump, will scale back or even overturn Roe v. Wade.. a landmark 1973 ruling that recognized a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.