The Louisiana law in question posed an “undue burden” on the right to abortion access.

Olivia Harvey
June 29, 2020 9:00 am
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Caroline Brehman, Getty Images

This morning, June 29th, the Supreme Court thwarted a Louisiana anti-abortion law that required doctors at abortion-providing clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Its dismissal is a slim win for abortion rights advocates, as the vote came to a 5-4 vote with Chief Justice John Roberts—who dissented from a vote regarding a similar Texas anti-abortion law in 2016—siding with the four liberal Supreme Court judges. 

According to USA Today, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer penned the main opinion for the four liberal justices and stated that they were in agreement with the federal district court judge who initially blocked the law arguing that the admitting-privileges restriction “consequently imposes an 'undue burden' on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”

Justice Breyer wrote that the Louisiana law provides "no significant health-related benefits" and "would place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking an abortion."

The aforementioned federal district court judge previously argued that, under the Louisiana law, only one clinic and one doctor in the state would be able to perform abortions—which is a situation that would never be able to meet the needs of the 10,000 Louisianan women who seek abortions annually, as NPR reports.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded to the Supreme Court decision in a statement sent to HelloGiggles.

As it stands, Louisiana has enacted the most abortion restrictions in the country, having passed 89 anti-abortion laws since the early 1970s.

“Access to abortion care has a profound impact on a person’s health and life,” Northup continued. “In Louisiana, abortion restrictions disproportionately harm African Americans who already live under the weight of systemic racism that pervades every aspect of American life including housing, voting, education, employment, and health. Louisiana lawmakers should be addressing these ingrained inequities rather than taking people’s rights away.”

The Lousiana restriction ended up at the Supreme Court earlier this year after being blocked by the federal judge, then reinstated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, then temporarily blocked again by the Supreme Court in 2019 until the high court could review it. 

The admitting-privileges requirement—which proponents argued would help patients if and when they experience life-threatening complications with their abortions—has been opposed by every major medical group in the country, NPR reports, from the American Medical Association to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The federal government even eliminated admitting-privileges requirements for doctors who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients at ambulatory surgical centers because these requirements were found to be unnecessary and burdensome to both clinics and patients. Only four Louisiana abortion clinic patients had to be admitted to the hospital due to complications within the past 23 years.

Though this is a win for abortion rights advocates, there is still much work to be done.

“Unfortunately, the Court’s ruling today will not stop those hell-bent on banning abortion,” Northup continued. “We will be back in court tomorrow and will continue to fight state by state, law by law to protect our constitutional right to abortion...It’s time for Congress to pass The Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would ensure the promise of Roe v. Wade is realized in every state for every person.”