The Supreme Court Just Issued A Crucial Abortion Rights Victory
In early March, the Supreme Court heard a crucial abortion case, June Medical Services v. Russo, which challenges the 2014 Louisiana law, requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Today, the Supreme Court decided to strike that law down in a vote of 5 to 4.
“Reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates, activists, and front-line clinic staff across the country came together to deliver this hard-fought win today,” Oriaku Njoku, co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care (ARC)-Southeast said in a statement provided to Supermajority News. “But our work does not and cannot end here. I know firsthand from my work in Georgia and across the Southeast the toll of restrictive state laws that push abortion care out of reach for the most marginalized. All of us, everywhere, must be able to choose if, when, and how to raise families in safe, healthy communities. We must continue to fund abortions, organize in our communities, and build power–not just concessions from the courts–to ensure that we are not in this same predicament another four years from now or ever.”
Abortion advocates had warned that, if the law was upheld, only one provider in the state would meet the requirements, which would have severely limited the approximately 10,000 Louisana residents who obtain abortions each year. Research from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) found that should this happen, the percent of pregnant people who would have to travel over 150 miles each way for abortion procedures would have increased from 1 percent to 71 percent. Additional research has found that, as of June 2019, Louisiana residents are already significantly limited from accessing abortion. The state bars people who use Medicaid from receiving abortion services, which, ANSIRH found, was a reason why more than 7 percent of those surveyed decided not to have an abortion. The state also requires two separate trips to clinics and counseling before the procedure can take place.
In addition, a 2016 case decided by the Supreme Court, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, struck down an identical admitting privilege in Texas. This case set a precedent for the Louisiana case. The decision relied heavily on testimony from Dr. Daniel Grossman and research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), where Grossman is an investigator. The research showed that under the restriction, the state’s number of abortions declined by 13 percent.
“Louisiana politicians are openly defying Supreme Court precedent,” Rosann Mariappuram, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, told Supermajority News in March, ahead of this decision. “If the Supreme Court allows this law to stand, it will be nearly impossible for patients to access abortion care in Louisiana. And it would signal to anti-choice legislators in other states that they can successfully pass similar laws to shut down clinics in their states, further pushing abortion access out of reach for millions of people in the U.S.”
Last year alone, 25 abortion bans were signed into law in 12 states, mostly in the South and the Midwest. Alabama tried to put forth a near-total ban on abortions, which was temporarily blocked by a federal judge. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., Texas temporarily banned most abortions—including medical abortions. By the end of April, the ban was no longer in place, though Texas remains one of the strictest states on abortion.
“We’re in a time where the governor thinks that the constitution can be suspended in a time of a pandemic,” Dyana Limon-Mercado, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood for Texas, told Supermajority News in April. “It’s devastating; we’ve heard from staff working in the health centers that this is the hardest thing they’ve ever had to work with patients on and communicate with them on.”
“Today, the Supreme Court did the right thing by scientific evidence and protected abortion care that was hanging by a thread,” Dr. Sarah Roberts, Associate Professor at ANSIRH, at the University of California, San Francisco, told Supermajority News. “Research shows that people face significant barriers to abortion care in Louisiana, particularly those struggling financially. Today’s decision will ensure that Louisiana clinics remain open, but the work to address all the other barriers to care is far from over.”