SCOTUS to Review Louisiana Abortion Law

U.S. Supreme Court / Getty Images
October 4, 2019

The Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear arguments in a lawsuit prompted by a Louisiana law prohibiting anyone who cannot admit patients at nearby hospitals from performing abortions.

The case pits June Medical Services, a Louisiana-based abortion provider, against Louisiana secretary of health Rebekah Gee. Louisiana law requires that abortions only be performed by doctors who have admitting privileges, which allow an individual doctor to admit patients to a particular hospital or medical clinic, at a nearby hospital.

A United States district court previously ruled against the state, finding that the law threatened constitutionally guaranteed abortion access because doctors could have difficulty gaining admitting privileges for reasons unrelated to abortion. Critics of the law have also claimed it would leave only a single abortion facility open in the state.

Pro-life groups, responding to the news, stressed the need for more regulation of abortion providers, even while June Medical v. Gee is being argued.

"Requiring an abortionist to have admitting privileges ensures that the doctor is not grossly incompetent and does not have a checkered past—things that would preclude approval by the hospital board," Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, senior policy adviser at The Catholic Association, said in a statement.

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini called for more oversight of abortion after the bodies of thousands of aborted children were discovered buried in the yard of a South Bend, Ind., abortionist.

"Abortion activists are more than willing to lower the bar on women's health in order to expand abortion, but stricter clinic regulations are in the best interest of women," Mancini wrote in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.

In a tweet about the news, Planned Parenthood warned the decision could jeopardize abortion access.

"As abortion access comes under attack, this is no time to back down. We're fighting back with everything we've got to protect our rights. Count on it," the organization wrote.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay of the law in order to allow litigation to proceed. That order was issued by a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the Court's liberal wing.

The Court's two newest justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both joined the minority. In a dissenting opinion, Kavanaugh argued the law should have been allowed to go into effect so abortionists in the state could determine whether they are able to gain admitting privileges.

June Medical is widely expected to be the first major abortion case the Court has heard since Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a June 2016 decision which struck down a nearly identical Texas admitting privileges requirement. In Whole Woman's Health, the Court found the state law imposed an undue burden on abortion rights.

Whole Woman's Health was a 5-3 ruling, with now-retired justice Anthony Kennedy voting with the Court's liberal wing. The Court ruled at the time of a vacancy caused by Antonin Scalia's death.

In a dissent to the Whole Woman's Health decision, Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the Court's "habit of applying different rules to different constitutional rights—especially the putative right to abortion."

Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a dissent joined by Thomas and Roberts.

A ruling in June Medical Services is expected in June 2020, according to the Associated Press.