WASHINGTON — Saying the Supreme Court needs more time to consider the matter, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued an order on Friday blocking a Louisiana abortion law from taking effect until Thursday. The law, which had been set to go into effect on Monday, could severely limit the number of doctors authorized to perform abortions in the state.
The law, enacted in 2014, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Supreme Court struck down an essentially identical Texas law in 2016, saying it imposed an undue burden on the right to abortion.
The vote in 2016 was 5 to 3, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority. Abortion rights advocates fear that the replacement of Justice Kennedy by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh may change the court’s approach to cases concerning abortion.
In 2017, Judge John W. deGravelles of the Federal District Court in Baton Rouge struck down the Louisiana law, saying that doctors at abortion clinics were often unable to obtain admitting privileges for reasons unrelated to their competence and that the law created an undue burden on women’s constitutional right to abortion.
In September, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, reversed Judge deGravelles’s ruling. The full Fifth Circuit refused to rehear that decision last month by a 9-to-6 vote, clearing the way for the law to go into effect on Monday.
Had that happened, the state might have been left with a single doctor authorized to perform abortions, according to court papers.
Justice Alito’s order took pains to say his order was provisional and based on the fact that “the filings regarding the application for a stay in this matter were not completed until earlier today and the justices need time to review these filings.”
“This order does not reflect any view regarding the merits” of the challenge to the law, Justice Alito wrote.