by Lawrence Hurley, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday stopped a Louisiana law imposing strict regulations on abortion clinics from going into effect in its first major test on abortion since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last summer.
The court on a 5-4 vote granted an emergency application by Shreveport-based abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women to block the Republican-backed law from going into effect while litigation continues.
The four liberal justices were joined by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority, suggesting that Roberts, as Kennedy used to be, is now the key vote on the issue.
Kennedy backed abortion rights in two key cases. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who President Donald Trump appointed to replace Kennedy, joined the court’s four other conservatives in dissent.
Hope Medical Group challenged the law’s requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have an arrangement called “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic.
Kavanaugh, writing for himself, said it was not clear whether doctors would be unable to obtain the admitting privileges were the law to go into effect. He said that he would have favored allowing them to bring a later legal challenge if their efforts were unsuccessful.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group that represents the challengers, said the law could lead to the closure of two of the three abortion clinics operating in Louisiana, a state of more than 4.6 million people.
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