Supreme Court decision in Louisiana case delays enemies of abortion

Supreme Court decision 5-4 to repeal a restrictive Louisiana law is far from the final battle of abortion opponents in their fight to annul Roe v. Wade.

Sponsored by an anti-abortion Democrat, Louisiana Law 620 was passed in 2014. State Senator Katrina Jackson argued that her requirement that abortion providers have hospital admission privileges within 30 miles of her clinic would protect women . However, those who defy the law said the restriction would leave a single abortion provider at a clinic in a state with more than 4.5 million residents.

“This case was not about decriminalizing abortion or nullifying Roe vs. Wade. I have a path that looks at that,” Jackson said. “But I also know that I have a responsibility as a woman, as a legislator, to make sure that when a woman chooses to abort, while Roe vs. Wade remains the law, they have safe options.”

The case before the Supreme Court, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo was almost identical to a Texas case that the court struck down in 2016. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt argued that a state’s requirement for admission privileges did not promote women’s health and placed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Louisiana lawmakers, with the help of pro-life organization Americans United for Life, enforced the law, alleging that the events were radically different from those in Texas.

“If something had happened to me, you better believe that I would have liked to be able to go directly to an operating room for surgery, so if my uterus had been pierced, my intestine had been pierced, I would have a possible chance of saving my life” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life. “Women deserve that.”

In an amicus report against Law 620, major medical associations wrote that abortions are extremely safe and rarely require hospital admission. They argued that continuity of care between clinics and hospitals is achieved through emergency protocols and communication, not through outpatients with hospital admission privileges, something the plaintiff has upheld in the case of Texas and Louisiana.

“Louisiana says many of its restrictions on abortion have to do with protecting women and children, but we know that is not true because Louisiana has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country,” said Julie Rikelman, lead attorney of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It has one of the worst indicators of child health in the country. So instead of enacting laws and implementing policies that protect women and children, they are just trying to take people’s decisions away.”

Monday’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for abortion rights groups. However, ruling 5-4, in which Chief Justice John Roberts sided with court liberals and newly appointed Conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch dissented, could be a sign of further polarization and litigation ahead.

“Anyone who reads this and thinks abortion rights are safe now just wasn’t paying attention,” said abortion law expert Mary Ziegler of Florida State University School of Law.