“Louisiana is openly defying the Supreme Court’s decision from just three years ago, in which they found an identical Texas law unconstitutional. We are counting on the Court to follow its precedent.”
On March 4, 2020, the Center for Reproductive Rights presented oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo (formerly June Medical Services v. Gee), a case that could shape the future of abortion rights across the country. (Click here for coverage of the oral arguments.)
The case challenges a Louisiana law (Act 620) that prevents doctors from providing abortion services in the state unless they have secured admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they provide abortion care. This law is designed to close clinics and undermine access to abortion—and it is identical to a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case brought and won by the Center in 2016.
The Court’s decision in that case made clear that states cannot use deceptive medical regulations to shut down clinics. Since then, other states and courts have complied with the Court’s ruling, recognizing these laws were indefensible. But the state of Louisiana has chosen to openly defy the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling.
Medical experts such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose these types of laws as medically unnecessary and burdensome. Abortion access is already severely limited in Louisiana—and if this law were to go into effect, access would be decimated. The state has just three abortion clinics—down from seven in 2011—and the admitting privileges law would force the closure of two more, leaving only one abortion provider in a state with approximately one million women of reproductive age.
Louisiana’s law is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to regulate abortion out of existence—effectively banning abortion without directly touching the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Since 2011, anti-abortion politicians have pushed through nearly 450 restrictive state laws to reduce access to abortion care.
The Supreme Court’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo is expected before the Court’s term ends in late June 2020.
Why June Medical Services v. Russo Matters
The Supreme Court must block this Louisiana law, since if the law takes effect, it would:
Snapshot: Abortion in Louisiana
The state imposes more restrictions on abortion providers than almost any other state. The dozens of restrictions it has passed and tried to enact include deceptive counseling requirements, method bans, mandatory delay periods, TRAP laws, and a ban on abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant (blocked by the courts).
Louisiana modeled its admitting privileges law on an identical Texas law because of the Texas law’s success in closing down clinics. (The Texas law was later ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision.)
Already, abortion care is difficult to access in the state: Because of unnecessary restrictions, the number of clinics in Louisiana has declined from seven in 2011 to three today. If the law takes effect, just one provider will remain to serve the roughly 10,000 people who obtain abortion care in the state each year.
Poor and rural people and people of color suffer the most from abortion restrictions in Louisiana.
Louisiana has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country—yet it is spending millions in court defending unnecessary restrictions instead of investing to improve maternal health care.