Civil and Human Rights

Abortion-Rights Groups Weigh in on SCOTUS Privileges Fight

  • Admitting privileges law imposes significant burdens
  • Provides no benefits, briefs say

A Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals is unconstitutional because it imposes significant burdens on women seeking abortions without providing any benefits, pro-abortion advocacy groups told the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 2.

The Constitutional Accountability Center, the National Health Law Program, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting provider June Medical Services LLC in its fight to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld the admitting privileges law.

The Fifth Circuit ignored Supreme Court precedent in doing so, as the court struck down a virtually identical Texas law just a few years earlier, June Medical said in its opening brief.

The appeals court also disregarded the district court’s extensive factfinding, which established that the admitting privileges requirement would severely burden abortion access in Louisiana by drastically reducing the number of abortion providers in the state, the ACLU said in its amicus brief. Every district court to have considered similar facts has reached the same conclusion, it said.

The law’s harmful effects would be felt most acutely by low-income Louisianans, who wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of traveling to obtain abortion care, the National Health Law Program said in its brief. And the Fifth Circuit’s decision can’t “be squared with the text and history of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the CAC said.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion Federation, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and the Abortion Care Network filed a joint amicus brief defending medical professionals who provide abortions. The individuals are highly qualified and dedicated to protecting their patients, the brief said.

Their inability to obtain admitting privileges generally has nothing to do with their competency and everything to do with “forces beyond their control,” like abortion stigma, Planned Parenthood’s brief said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents June Medical, expects several more amicus briefs to be filed. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 4, 2020.

Planned Parenthood receives funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

The case is June Med. Servs. v. Gee, U.S., No. 18-1323, briefs filed 12/2/19.

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