Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has temporarily blocked abortion restrictions in Louisiana from going into effect, pushing off the question for another week as to whether the high court will soon be forced to weigh in on the issue of abortion rights.
Alito stayed the law until Feb. 7, saying that filings were only completed on Friday and that justices needed more time to review them.
“This order does not reflect any view regarding the merits of the petition for a writ of certiorari that applicants represent they will file,” Alito said. The justice handles emergency requests from the 5th Circuit and can therefore act alone on the case, but may refer it to the full court to make a final determination.
The Louisiana law requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case anything goes wrong during an abortion. The Supreme Court in 2016 struck down similar laws in Texas in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, but the 5th Circuit upheld Louisiana’s law.
The ruling was handed down 5-3 because the Supreme Court was short-handed following the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Since then, President Trump has appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, tilting the court more conservative.
The Supreme Court has appeared reluctant to take up controversial cases this term following the bruising confirmation battle Kavanaugh faced regarding allegations of sexual assault when he was in high school.
Plaintiffs in the Louisiana case filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court on Jan. 25 to halt the 5th Circuit’s ruling.
Anti-abortion organizations and lawmakers who support restrictions such as the Louisiana law say they are necessary to protect women’s health, but abortion rights advocates contend that they effectively shutter clinics, placing abortions out of reach, and that they are not necessary.
In September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled in Louisiana’s favor, saying that the law was different from the one the Supreme Court Struck down. The 5th Circuit then rejected the request for a rehearing en banc, or by all the judges that sit on the court.