The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up a huge case that could leave Louisiana with just one provider of safe, legal abortion.
The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, gained wide notoriety when Justice Brett Kavanaugh, soon after he joined the Court, voted to let the law that would decimate abortion access take effect. The case will be decided this term — by the end of June 2020 — and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Louisiana’s anti-abortion law, it would take the country one step closer to making abortion impossible to access.
But the danger doesn’t stop there. The case also has far-reaching implications for our nation’s court system. You see, the Supreme Court already ruled against this exact type of law. Any decision that would permit Louisiana’s anti-abortion law to stand would flout precedent and how the Court is supposed to treat cases that have already been decided.
Pictured above: The United States Supreme Court building
Keeping Abortion Out of Reach in Louisiana
The Louisiana law at issue in June Medical Services v. Gee would impose a medically unnecessary requirement that abortion providers get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Louisiana politicians pushing this targeted restriction against abortion providers (TRAP) law claim to support “women’s health.” But in reality TRAP laws threaten patient health and safety because they restrict access to reproductive health care — which is a devastating possibility in a state where people already have few reproductive health care providers, and some of the lowest health outcomes (including maternal health) in the country.
The Louisiana TRAP law would particularly harm people who already have trouble accessing health care because of systemic barriers — for example, people with low incomes, those in rural areas, and people of color. Picture yourself in this situation: You need an abortion. But you don’t have insurance, you can’t take off work, you can’t get childcare (most people who get an abortion are already parents), and you can’t drive miles and miles and hours and hours away to reach the lone abortion provider in your state who meets the legislature’s restrictions.
It’s easy to see this common scenario would put abortion out of reach in Louisiana, even if not banning it technically. And that’s exactly what the law is intended to do: keep safe, legal abortion out of reach.
The law at the center of the Louisiana case is nearly identical to a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. At the time, the Court said a local admitting privileges requirement would place an unconstitutional undue burden on access to abortion.
Pictured above: Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, outside the Supreme Court building at a demonstration over the Texas TRAP law at issue in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt
If the Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s TRAP law in June Medical Services v. Gee, then it would essentially be flouting its own ruling from just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health — and calling into question the undue burden test enshrined by Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
So if you remember 2016 and felt that Whole Woman’s Health was that year’s biggest abortion case, keep watch. The Louisiana case marks an equal or perhaps even larger inflection point for abortion access and the U.S. legal system.
About the Case: Louisiana Health Care Providers vs. Anti-Abortion Politicians
The Center for Reproductive Rights — which litigated the Texas case before the Supreme Court — is now representing several abortion providers in the Louisiana case.
The plaintiffs sued Dr. Rebekah Gee, the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Dr. Gee is in charge of enforcing Louisiana’s admitting privileges requirement.
(Planned Parenthood is not a plaintiff in the Louisiana case, and neither of Planned Parenthood’s two health centers in Louisiana provide abortion.)
Louisiana Case Could Decide the Future of Abortion Access in America
Louisiana’s dangerous, unconstitutional, anti-abortion law is currently on hold and it will stay that way until the Supreme Court issues a decision in the case which it will do some time before the end of June 2020.
If the Court rules in favor of the Louisiana law, it would leave only one doctor providing abortion care in a state where roughly 10,000 people have abortions every year.
State of Emergency for Women’s Health
6 states only have one abortion provider. And access to reproductive care is under attack by an unprecedented wave of actions that further threaten people’s health.
And it’s not just about Louisiana. Access to abortion is hanging by a thread in this country. With a ruling in favor of the Louisiana law in June, the Supreme Court could allow that thread to snap.
Three years ago, the Court decided that laws such as this one in Louisiana have no purpose other than to make abortion more difficult to access. There’s only one reason to revisit that decision now: because Justice Brett Kavanaugh has replaced Justice Kennedy, who voted to protect abortion access in 2016.
Trump Packed Courts With Conservative Judges
Pictured above: Justices Neil Gorsuch (left) and Brett Kavanaugh (right), with retired justice Anthony Kennedy (center)
And Justice Kavanaugh is far from President Trump’s only nominee.
Trump has packed federal courts with judges who have track records of restricting reproductive rights and overall health care access. In fact, Trump has filled 152 lifetime seats in America’s courts, and has over 40 pending nominees.
Despite all of these threats, we will never stop fighting to ensure that every single person is still able to access abortion. Join us in the fight for our rights and freedoms.
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