On March 4, 2020, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) starts hearings on a case that could “eviscerate the availability of abortion care, and which also could significantly undermine abortion access—particularly for those who already have limited access—as well as patients’ ability to enforce in court the right to have an abortion.” The case is June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo (formerly June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee), and it is a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Louisiana has enacted this law knowing that it was unconstitutional. The law is identical to a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, 3 years before the Supreme Court decided to take this case on. That decision should have settled the issue. More than that, by Louisiana’s request to add another aspect to the case, this case could take away the ability for abortion providers to sue on behalf of their patients, as they’ve been doing for decades.
If allowed to take effect, the law would force two of Louisiana’s three remaining abortion clinics to close, leaving only one clinic to provide abortion care to nearly one million people in the state who might need it. This case could give all states the power to end abortion via clinic shutdowns.
The Texas law was ruled unconstitutional in 2016 on the basis that limiting clinic availability was an undue burden on women seeking legal abortions, a constitutional right as determined by the landmark Roe v. Wade case (1973). The difference between now and 2016 is a Supreme Court stacked against women. Since 2016, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch have managed to become Supreme Court Justices, so there are 5 expected strong anti-abortion votes. In case there is any question about how anti-abortion Brett Kavanaugh is, see “Here’s What Brett Kavanaugh Has Said About Roe v. Wade,” 6/13/18, Rollingstone.
“The stakes are incredibly high—this case could shape the future of abortion access in the U.S. If the law is allowed to take effect, anti-abortion politicians across the United States will be further emboldened to pass unconstitutional laws and onerous restrictions,” wrote the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote in the call for a rally in DC on March 4, 8am-11:30am. As we saw in 2019, anti-abortion politicians are already quite emboldened based on all of the crazy anti-abortion bills proposed last year, including the many abortion ban laws.
As mentioned, the new aspect to the Louisiana case is that the justices get to consider stripping abortion doctors of their right to contest abortion bans in court. According to the Scotusblog article on tackling the Louisiana anti-abortion case, “The justices also agreed to take up an appeal from Louisiana arising from the same challenge. The state had urged the justices to deny the abortion providers’ petition for review but added that, if the justices did grant that petition, the court should also consider whether the abortion providers have the right to sue on behalf of their patients in this case. ”
On January 2, 2020, 39 senators and 168 representatives–including Democrats Dan Lipinski and Collin Peterson–filed a formal request for the court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, calling the right to abortion “unworkable.” Some say this was to give Kavanaugh and Gorsuch political cover.
For those who can’t be in DC at 8am on March 4th for start of the case, there will be 4 protests around NC on March 4, 2020, all beginning at 5:30pm.