The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that a pro-life law violates the rights of both women and abortion providers in Louisiana.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal members of the court in the close 5-4 ruling.
“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” Roberts wrote in his opinion. “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”
Democratic Louisiana state Sen. Katrina Jackson, the author of the law at the heart of the decision, spoke out in a Monday video statement following the decision.
“The Supreme Court has issued a tragic decision that continues its practice of putting the interests of for-profit abortion businesses ahead of the health and safety of women,” she said.
“Together with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans and women and men, we passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act to protect the health and safety of women in Louisiana,” she added. “While today’s decision is not what we wanted, we will never stop working to put the women of Louisiana above the interests of the abortion businesses.”
Pro-lifers had expressed both hope and anxiety over the landmark abortion ruling to The Daily Caller News Foundation ahead of the decision.
Louisiana Right to Life Associate Director Angie Thomas told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the organization, which introduced the law with Jackson, was “anxiously awaiting” the decision, warning that “the Louisiana abortion industry, with its long history of health and safety violations, cannot speak for Louisiana women.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry expressed hope about the ruling to The Daily Caller News Foundation, emphasizing that “Louisiana abortion providers have a record of non-compliance with basic safety regulations, and now they want a special exemption from generally-accepted medical standards that apply to similar surgical procedures in our State.”
“Women seeking abortions deserve better than that; they should have the same assurance of prompt and proper care in the event of complications,” he said.
But others predicted that the justices would rule in favor of the abortion providers, given the rulings of the past several days as well as the heated nature of the opinions written by the conservative justices.
Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s four liberal judges in a landmark decision June 18 that federal law protects LGBT employees from discrimination, while Roberts joined the liberal justices in a ruling announced Thursday that the Trump administration could not terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
At Issue in June Medical Services v. Russo: Admitting Privileges
The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, or Act 620, requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. These admitting privileges would allow a woman to go directly to the hospital if she were to need urgent care.
Opponents say the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act would hinder and potentially eliminate abortion access in Louisiana. Jackson said the law would protect women from unsafe or unhygienic abortion clinic practices.
“Just as Louisiana cares for the life of the child, it’s somehow a big secret that we also care for the life of the mother,” Jackson said at a March press conference in Washington, D.C.
Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who argued on behalf of June Medical Services, said there are only two abortion providers who have admitting privileges in the state and that there is “no medical justification” for these admitting privileges since abortion is “extremely safe.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights originally filed June Medical Services v. Gee in August 2014.
Landry, the Louisiana attorney general, has maintained that the law does not force clinic closures, citing the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding that “there is no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act.” Louisiana abortion providers will be able to obtain admitting privileges if they are providing competent care, Landry said in a February press release.
Threatening Supreme Court Justices
As is usual with abortion cases, June Medical v. Russo has been fraught with emotion. Protesters assembled outside the Supreme Court in early March as the justices gathered to examine the case, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sparked a backlash through what some called a threat to Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch,” Schumer said at a rally outside the Supreme Court, video from the event shows, “and I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.”
“You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” he added.
The senator’s comments referenced the political price Republicans “will pay for putting them on the court” as well as “a warning that the justices will unleash major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision,” Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman told The Daily Caller News Foundation at the time.
“Let me ask you, my friends, are we going to let Republicans undo a woman’s right to choose?” Schumer asked the crowd. “Are we going to stay quiet as they try to turn back the clock? Are we going to give up or waver when things get tough?”
The pro-abortion activists in the crowd responded to each of these questions with a resounding “No.”
“No, we are going to stand together in one voice and take a stand on behalf of women and families throughout the country,” Schumer said. “We are going to stand against all these attempts to restrict a woman’s right to choose and we will win.”
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