In other decisions, a Tennessee man on Death Row lost a pair of Supreme Court appeals that contended he had new evidence of his innocence.
The court agreed to hear the appeal of a man whose witnesses thought his trial was the next day.
The court will review federal rules that require utilities to give competitors equal access to their transmission lines.
The justices decided not to get involved for now in the question of whether the disabled may be made to pay some of the government's cost to accommodate them, such as a fee for special "handicapped" parking tags.
The court, without comment, turned aside the claim by doctors that additional medical and safety rules imposed by the state are really just an attempt to undermine abortion rights.
The conservative-led court has a narrow majority in favor of the basic right to an abortion, but in recent years it has allowed some restrictions on access to the procedure.
The rules governing everything from bookkeeping to air flow in clinic offices and treat early-term abortion differently from other similarly low-risk medical procedures, the doctors claimed. To comply, doctors would have to make expensive changes to their offices and procedures that would raise the cost of abortion significantly, the doctors said.
"Under the guise of promoting maternal health, these regulations actually threaten women's health by significantly hindering their access to safe, legal abortions," lawyers for the doctors wrote.
South Carolina authorities responded that the regulations are very similar to national standards for abortion practices, and that one of the clinics fighting the rules has already complied with most of them.
"This regulation does not look to strike at a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion," lawyers for the state wrote. "Rather, these regulations look to protect the health of women who seek abortions."
The state cited several benefits to public health and safety from the regulations, including requirements to ensure that abortion providers are properly trained and their clinics properly equipped.
The rules also require women be tested for venereal diseases that might complicate abortions.
The dispute arose from a 1995 decision by the state Legislature to change the way abortion clinics were regulated. The change also affects medical offices that perform abortions in addition to unrelated services.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control later issued a 27-page book of regulations, and the doctors sued to keep the rles from taking effect.
A lower court agreed with the doctors, but the 4th Circuit sided with the state last year. The doctors then appealed to the Supreme Court.
In 1992, the high court reaffirmed women's core right to end their pregnancies but let states raise new hurdles, such as 24-hour waiting periods.
In its last major abortion ruling, the court voted 5-4 last year to dramatically limit states' power to ban "partial-birth"abortions.
A Tennessee man sentenced to death for killing a police officer lost a pair of Supreme Court appeals that contended he had new evidence of his innocence.
The court without comment turned down Philip Workman's argument that he is constitutionally entitled to present the evidence at a new federal court hearing even though he has had a previous round of federal appeals.
Workman had been scheduled for execution Jan. 31, but a federal appeals court granted a delay to allow the Supreme Court time to consider his appeal.
Workman, 47, was convicted of killing Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver during a 1981 shootout with police who arrived at a Wendy's restaurant robbery.
Workman contended that a man who testified he saw Workman shoot the police officer had recanted his testimony. And, Workman said the medical examiner's office belatedly turned over an X-ray of Oliver's body that the inmate said proved he did not fire the fatal bullet.
In a similar case, the court agreed to clarify when state prisoners can get a federal court hearing to present evidence that they are innocent.
The court said it will hear an appeal by a Missouri man convicted of murder after three relatives who he said planned to provide an alibi for him left the courthouse before they were to testify.
Remon Lee was convicted of first-degree murder in the August 1992 shooting death of Steve Shelby in Kansas City.
Two witnesses in state court identified Lee as the driver of a truck in which the person who fired the shots escaped.
During his trial, Lee's lawyer planned to call his mother, stepfather and sister to testify that he was in California at the time of the shooting. All three left the courthouse during a lunch break and did not return.
Lee's lawyer asked the judge to delay the trial to allow a chance to find the witnesses, but the judge refused. Lee did not call any further witnesses, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Later, Lee said he learned that his relatives had been told by a court officer that their testimony would not be needed until the next day.
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review federal rules that boost competition in providing electrical service by requiring utilitieto give competitors equal access to their transmission lines.
The court said it will hear arguments by nine state power commissions that say the rules go too far, as well as an electric company's appeal that contends they do not go far enough.
Traditionally, monopoly utilities have provided electrical power, but recent competition in the industry has allowed customers in many areas to choose their power company.
In 1996, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued rules intended to ensure that competing power companies get equal access to traditional utilities' transmission lines. FERC governs interstate and wholesale transmission of electricity, while states regulate in-state retail sales.
The commission found that public utilities were denying or providing inferior transmission services, in violation of a federal law that bans such discrimination
Billing The Disabled
The Supreme Court will not get involved for now in the question of whether the disabled may be made to pay some of the government's cost to accommodate them, such as a fee for special "handicapped" parking tags.
The court, without comment Monday, turned aside three cases involving fees under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
At issue was the government's ban on any state surcharges to the disabled for the cost of providing special services, and a larger constitutional and ideological question about whether Congress had the authority to force states to do certain things under the ADA.
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