On March 4, 2020 the U S Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on June Medical Services LLC v. Gee. The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (Act 620) would require abortionists have active admitting privileges at a hospital that provides obstetrical or gynecological services within 30 miles of where they perform abortions.
This legislation is a near-mirror image of HB2, the Texas law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.
So why would we expect a ruling on Act 620 to be any different?
The Court is actually facing one case with two issues. The requirement of admitting privileges is being challenged by an abortion business and two abortionists. The Louisiana Department of Health is defending A620. Further, the State is challenging the plaintiff’s “third-party” standing, saying evidence of botched abortions, patient abuse and health and safety violations are indicators that the abortion business and abortionists do not have the patients’ best interests in mind and shouldn’t be able to sue on their behalf.
If the Court rules against standing of the plaintiffs, it’s unlikely it will decide the issue of admitting privileges. However, a ruling against standing would be a legal game changer, making it more difficult for the abortion industry and its advocates to challenge pro-life laws.
Should the Louisiana case be upheld, the impact would be quite different from Hellerstedt.
The Supreme Court invented a new legal standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prohibited any legislation protecting America’s unborn babies and their mothers from creating an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to get an abortion.
Thomas M. Messner, JD, Senior Fellow in Legal Policy at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, points to five key factual differences between the Texas and Louisiana cases, provided by the Fifth Circuit that demonstrate the Louisiana law doesn’t undermine Casey:
- “Almost all Texas hospitals required that for a doctor to maintain privileges there, he or she had to admit a minimum number of patients annually. Few Louisiana hospitals make that demand.”
- “Because Texas doctors could not gain privileges, all but 8 of 40 clinics closed. Here, only one doctor at one clinic is currently unable to obtain privileges; there is no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act.”
- “In Texas, the number of women forced to drive over 150 miles increased by 350%. Driving distances will not increase in Louisiana.”
- “Unlike the record in Louisiana, the record in Texas reflected no benefits from the legislation.”
- “Finally, because of the closures, the remaining Texas clinics would have been overwhelmed, burdening every woman seeking an abortion. In Louisiana, however, the cessation of one doctor’s practice will affect, at most, only 30% of women, and even then not substantially.”
The Fifth Circuit examined the actual impact of Act 620 instead of accepting vague and broad claims by abortion advocates of irreversible damages inflicted on women. The Appeals Court also stated that pro-life laws “are unconstitutional only where they present a substantial obstacle to abortion.” (emphasis mine)
Even if the US Supreme Court doesn’t address admitting privileges, but negatively impacts third-party standing for the abortion industry and their abortionists, it would be a considerable victory for America’s unborn babies and their mothers.
We should all be praying for wisdom and discernment on the part of the Court’s justices.
Sincerely for LIFE,
President, Life Issues Institute