By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down Louisiana’s abortion law holds doctor who perform abortions to a lower standard of health care than that of their peers, Danielle Van Haute, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said.

In a 5-4 decision released June 20, the Supreme Court, in a decision that was surprising to many pro-life advocates, ruled Louisiana’s 2014 Unsafe Protection Act unconstitutional. The law would have required doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

“It was definitely disappointing because ultimately what it is saying is that physicians who only treat women, because they are the only ones who can have abortions, are not being held to the same standards as other physicians,” Van Haute said. “Many (pro-abortion) people are trying to present it as a good thing because it will not cause ‘undue burden’ to women but regardless of how people stand, pro-choice or pro-life, I don’t understand how we can be okay holding these physicians to a lower standard to other outpatient surgical centers. Physicians who are performing abortions will continue to be held less accountable for their competency and their actions than other physicians.

“It’s almost a different bar when looking at (these) cases with the Supreme Court relating to abortion.”

Writing for the majority in June Medical Services v. Russo, Justice Stephen Breyer said the law presented what he called a “substantial obstacle” for women seeking abortions. In his opinion the law provided “no significant health-related benefits.”

Chief Justice John Roberts also sided with the majority, surprising many because four years ago he voted in favor of upholding a Texas law that was generally perceived as quite similar to Louisiana’s. That law was also struck down by the Supreme Court.

He wrote in his opinion that the Louisiana law “imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law. Therefore, Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Van Haute attributed Roberts’ decision to strike down Louisiana’s law to the precedent that has been set previously by the Texas law decision.

“I really tried not to speculate on how (Roberts) was going to vote,” she said. “I think the tide is going to be very slow to turn even when we are looking at cases like this that are not directly related to the legality of abortion itself.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent opinion, said the court should revisit Roe V. Wade, which in 1973 legalized abortion. He said Roe is “grievously wrong for many reasons.”

Van Haute admitted difficulty to speculating when Roe v. Wade might be overturned, or how it’s going to happen or even what justices will be involved.

“We need to be working on the grass roots level making changes here locally,” she said, “To overturn Roe there is going to have to be some compromise found within our extremely polarized political system.”

Van Haute said Catholics “are not just trying to overturn Roe v. Wade but affect change within our entire culture regarding the dignity of human life.

“Abortion is absolutely fundamental to right to life. But regardless of the life issues we are talking about, the establishment of valuing the dignity of life will not come just from a law.”

She said a significant connection exists between legality and morality but believes there are times when people can overlook the affect they can have on a daily basis in conversation with others and having actual dialogue.

Benjamin Clapper, director of Louisiana Right to Life, said he was disappointed in the court’s decision.

Although disappointing, Van Haute said the decision is not demoralizing. She said the fact that the law passed with so much bipartisan support in the Legislature “speaks volumes.”

She also noted that Catholics work for eternity and that “our hope as people ultimately does not rest in the Supreme Court or a political party or anything else of this world. Our hope is in Christ. That’s where we need to start and end every day.”

She said her office is planning for 40 Days of Life, scheduled Sept. 23–Nov. 1, although some plans are in flex because of the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic.