Louisiana’s new abortion restrictions made national headlines earlier this year. Now, a 2014 state law could play a major part in the future — or possibly the lack thereof — of legal abortion in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court met today behind closed doors to decide whether to hear, June Medical Services v. Gee, the case which involves a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges to at least one hospital within a 30-mile radius.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in September 2018. The court covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and its rulings have historically been more conservative than other appeals courts.
The Supreme Court then intervened in February to keep the law from taking effect upon that ruling until it decided whether to hear the case. It could announce its decision this week or in the upcoming months.
No matter what it decides, that decision will affect abortion access in the country and the status of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to have an abortion prior to viability, on the basis of the right to privacy outlined in the 14th Amendment.
A law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals won’t go into effect on Monday as scheduled, afte…
This decision comes three years after the Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical Texas admitting privileges law, containing much of the same wording. Both laws apply to surgical abortions and medication abortions (where patients are given a pill to end a pregnancy) and allow physicians violating them to be fined up to $4,000 per incidence.
But Dorinda Bordlee, a consulting attorney to Louisiana Right to Life, one of the state’s largest anti-abortion groups, said the key difference is that the Texas law ordered clinics to meet the hospital-like standards required of surgical centers.
“While the Texas law, like the Louisiana law, required physicians at abortion facilities to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, the Texas law also required abortion facilities to meet strict ambulatory surgical center requirements,” Bordlee said in a statement in February. “Louisiana’s law does not include the ambulatory surgical center requirement, and the facts of Louisiana’s different geography and demographics necessitate a different result.”
By refusing to take the case, the Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling would stand, allowing the admitting privileges law to go into effect — pontentially setting a precedent that lower courts can uphold anti-abortion laws that mirror those the Supreme Court has already declared unconstitutional.
The court could also reverse the appeals court decision after hearing the summary, an outcome abortion-rights activists tend to favor. If it takes the case, it could reverse the ruling or go in the opposite direction, gutting or reversing Roe, an outcome anti-abortion activists are hoping for with the appointments of conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
Is Louisiana the next Alabama or Missouri when it comes to the right to an abortion?
State legislators this spring introduced and passed a flurry of anti-abortion legislation, aimed at chipping away the Roe decision. Because the legal process takes time, courts are still working through challenges to abortion restrictions passed years ago. Others wait in legal limbo.
The Supreme Court will also decide whether to take up an Indiana case challenging a 2016 law that would require a woman to have an ultrasound — and be given the choice to view the image and listen to the heartbeat — 18 hours before obtaining an abortion.