NC Family and twenty-four other family policy organizations have signed onto an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Louisiana law that would help ensure that medical care is provided to women and surviving babies after abortions. The case of June Medical Services v. Gee centers around the constitutionality of a Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
In June 2014, Louisiana passed Act 620—Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which required physicians performing or inducing abortions to “have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced…” This Louisiana law was challenged by several abortion clinics and doctors, and was enjoined by a district court. That ruling was later reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and an appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2016, a similar law in Texas was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt (WWH). Based on precedent set by the landmark 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court looked at whether state laws impose an “undue burden,” or a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” In WWH, all but 8 of 40 clinics in Texas closed because many Texas doctors could not gain hospital admitting privileges. Because of this, SCOTUS declared in a 5-3 ruling that the Texas law did not carry with it enough medical benefits to justify the burdens the law imposed on women seeking abortions. As a result, the Texas law was ruled unconstitutional.
In the amicus brief filed in June Medical Services v. Gee, NC Family and the other family policy organizations support the conclusion of the Fifth Circuit court, which said the facts of this case are “remarkably different” from those in WWH. In the June Medical case, “only one doctor at one clinic is currently unable to obtain privileges,” and “there is not evidence that any of the clinics will close” due to Act 620. There is therefore no “undue burden” placed on women who want to receive an abortion.
The brief additionally argues that the ruling of Planned Parenthood v. Casey has given lower courts “little objective guidance,” leading different courts to arrive at different conclusions. This is clear from the disagreements between the district court and the Fifth Circuit court in WWH. The amicus brief urges the justices to review abortion law cases in the same way they would First Amendment cases of free speech, so that there can be an “objective analysis” and a “concrete roadmap for when to conclude a law unduly burdens abortion rights.”
The brief concludes by pointing out that Act 620 does not prevent women from getting abortions; it guarantees them emergency care for serious health risks that can arise from complications during or following an abortion.
According to the SCOTUS blog, the Court will hear oral arguments on this case on March 4, 2020.