Kevin Daley on October 4, 2019

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear its first abortion case since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, in what could be the beginning of a long campaign to erode abortion access in the United States.

The case is seen is a meaningful signal as to how the Court’s conservative majority will approach abortion cases in the near term, given its similarity to a 2016 decision involving similar facts and principles.

At issue in Friday’s case is a Louisiana law called the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act or Act 620. The measure requires that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Pro-choice litigators say the law is identical to a Texas regulation the Supreme Court struck down in a 2016 case called Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Abortion advocates also fear the law will significantly curtail abortion access in Louisiana. After the Texas implemented regulation at issue in Whole Women’s Health, many of its 40 abortion clinics closed. A similar outcome will follow in Louisiana, the pro-choice side fears, which has just three abortion providers.

Though U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles blocked enforcement of the law, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and said the law could be enforced. That prompted a last-second appeal from abortion providers to the Supreme Court.

The justices reversed the 5th Circuit on Feb. 7 and temporarily blocked the law from taking effect on a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal bloc. The law has not been in force while the lawsuit proceeds through the courts.

About 10,000 abortions are performed in Louisiana per year, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

This is breaking news. This post will be updated. 

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