Abortion access in Louisiana under review at the U.S. Supreme Court

Abortion access in Louisiana under review at the U.S. Supreme Court
Protestors lined the sidewalk of both sides of this Supreme Court case having to do with abortion access. (Source: Gray DC)

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Louisiana law having to do with proper credentialing for abortion providers was under review at the nation’s High Court Wednesday. Opponents claim the law restricts access for women. The fate of the divisive law could have widespread impact.

Raucous rallies took place on the sidewalk outside the Court, and the courtroom was packed inside for June Medical Services v. Russo. The law in question requires that abortion doctors be credentialed to bring patients to a local hospital and treat them if something goes wrong in the procedure. The court struck down a similar Texas Law in 2016 for placing a burden on women seeking abortions.

“Nothing has changed in the previous four years that would justify a different ruling in this case,” said Julie Rikelman, the attorney arguing on behalf of June Medical in court Wednesday.

Justices grilled Rikelman on why abortion providers are bringing this case and not the patients themselves, something called “third-party standing”. Justices also inquired as to why providers cannot simply get the proper credentialing. Rikelman fired back on this point saying hospitals give credentials to doctors admitting a certain number of patients. Abortion doctors very rarely have to admit patients because of the safety of their procedures.

“This law would close two thirds of the clinics in Louisiana leaving just one clinic and one doctor to provide services to about 10,000 people per year,” said Rikelman.

Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill argued on behalf of the state. She makes the case that the law is there to protect women. Murrill says regulation is necessary in a state with a history of health violations.

“We know that there are serious complications from abortion,” said Murrill.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg badgered Murrill on that point, contesting the complication rate is less than once a year. Murrill continually argued that doctors can easily get the proper credentials that will only be a benefit to women.

“Our law made very good sense. It protects women. And we’re gratified to be here today to be able to defend it,” said Murrill.

For a big case like this, the Justices generally take their time with their ruling. An opinion will come before the end of June.

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