The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana abortion law from taking effect in a split 5-4 vote decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal wing in putting enforcement of the Louisiana law on hold. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh said they would have denied the stay application, allowing the law to take effect.
The case marked the first time the Supreme Court has taken action on a case dealing with abortion since Kavanaugh, who replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined the high court in October.
The Louisiana law requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If it ultimately goes into effect, two of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics are expected to close because they would not be able to meet the requirement.
The majority of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the law in September and declined a request for the full court to reconsider the panel’s decision.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and abortion clinics in Louisiana filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to block the law from going into effect. The plaintiffs argue that the law should be struck down because it is similar to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in a 2016 decision. Opponents of the law also argue that, if implemented, it would leave the state with just one doctor to provide abortions.
On Feb. 1, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito blocked the law from going into effect until Thursday, saying that justices needed more time to review the filings. Alito handles emergency requests from the 5th Circuit and said his decision to delay the case was not to be viewed as weighing in on its merits.
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.