Supreme Court rejects cases on abortion and Catholic schools, citing recent decisions

SCOTUS rejects cases on abortion, Catholic schools, citing recent decisions

US Supreme Court in Washington. Credit: flysnowfly/Shutterstock
US Supreme Court in Washington. Credit: flysnowfly/Shutterstock

.- After striking down Louisiana’s unsafe abortion law this week, the Supreme Court on Thursday instructed federal courts to reconsider two Indiana abortion laws in light of that ruling. The court also sent a case concerning Catholic schools in Wisconsin back to the lower court.

Indiana laws requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, as well as for mothers seeking abortions to receive an ultrasound, were struck down or halted from going into effect by the federal courts. The Supreme Court on Thursday vacated those rulings and instructed them to be considered again in light of its Monday decision in June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo.

One pro-life leader commended the instruction to reconsider the cases. “We are confident that the Seventh Circuit will allow these compassionate, life-saving laws to stand upon further review,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

In the Monday decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Louisiana’s requirement that abortion facilities have the same admitting-privileges standards as other surgical centers. Under the law, abortionists were required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

An abortion regulation, the court said, must promote “women’s health and safety” and cannot put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.” Louisiana’s law did not meet this standard, the court said.

After failing at the federal circuit court level, Indiana had appealed its ultrasound and parental consent laws to the Supreme Court, asking the court to consider the laws as well as the legal ability of abortion clinics to file lawsuits claiming injuries to women from state abortion laws, known as “third-party standing.” Lower courts will now have to reconsider the case.

In several other cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear appeals, including that of a lawsuit against a “buffer zone” enacted by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania outside of abortion facilities.

Two pro-life sidewalk counselors, Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, had challenged the city’s law in court that had established a 20-foot barrier outside health clinics, including abortion facilities.

Both a federal district court and the Third Circuit appeals court denied their petition for relief from the law, and the Supreme Court also denied their appeal on Thursday.

Dannenfelser said she was “disappointed” at the news, saying that “buffer zones” in reality “restrict the free speech of pro-life Americans who seek to provide love and assistance to women considering abortion.”

In another case where the court denied an appeal, Hill v. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Indiana had denied a license to Whole Woman’s Health to open a new facility in South Bend that offered abortion counseling and the abortion pill. The state said that the organization hadn’t provided documentation of past complaints against its affiliates.

A federal district court sided with Whole Woman’s Health and granted it immunity from the regulations to open the new clinic, while also overruling Indiana’s licensing regulations in the process.

The Seventh Circuit appeals court acknowledged Indiana’s authority to license clinics, but ruled that the state acted unconstitutionally in denying Whole Woman’s Health a license for the new clinic.

Indiana then appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case, or at least hold it until deciding Louisiana’s abortion law; the court on Thursday denied its appeal.

Also this week, in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court ruled that religious schools must have co equal access to public aid programs with secular private schools. That decision concerned a scholarship fund for private schools and the state’s constitutional bar on public funding of religious institutions, which the court found violated the First Amendment. 

Following that decision, the Supreme Court sent another case appealed to it back down to a lower court. St. Augustine Catholic school and parents of its students had sued the state of Wisconsin for not providing public busing to students of the school. A state law allows for busing of private school students, but only for one school of each religious denomination in a given area. Another Catholic school, St. Gabriel of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was already being served in the district.

The Seventh Circuit court sided with the state, saying that it did not unlawfully discriminate against religion. On Thursday, the Supreme Court vacated that judgment and sent it back to the circuit court, to be considered in light of the court’s Tuesday ruling in Espinoza.

Tags: Abortion, Catholic Schools, Catholic News, Supreme Court, Indiana

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