US Supreme Court to Review Louisiana Abortion Restrictions

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of a Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have hospital privileges within 30 miles. Those who oppose Louisiana’s law argue that it will deprive access to abortion care to most Louisiana women, especially in rural areas. Moreover, while nationally, Catholic hospitals serve one in six patients in the US, in Louisiana that rises to one in four. It is unlikely that any Catholic hospital would grant admitting privileges to providers.

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, will be the first major abortion rights case to be argued before the Court since the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, both recommended by the conservative, anti-abortion Federalist Society. Before the retire­ment of Anthony Kennedy, the Court had already struck down a virtually identical law in Texas. Upholding the Louisiana law would there­fore signal an uncertain future for other TRAP (“targeted regulation of abortion providers”) laws and, ultimately, for Roe itself.

Also of concern is the “cross-petition” filed by Louisiana’s Health Depart­ment chief, which will accompany the case. The petition asks the Court to rule as to whether clinics and practitioners have legiti­mate “third-party standing” to sue on behalf of patients. Most legal challenges to abortion restrictions are brought by these third parties, rather than by an individual patient, who is unlikely to have the resources for a lengthy legal battle. Overturning their standing would not only put an end to this lawsuit, but would also work retroac­tively and potentially nullify all previous decisions on abortion cases not brought by a patient. It would also impact the status of abortion restrictions currently blocked by pending litiga­tion in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio.

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