US Supreme Court holds Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act to be Unconstitutional

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The US Supreme Court in June Medical Services LLC v Russo held that the act which requires only doctors who have admitting privileges to perform abortions, to be unconstitutional. Justice Breyer reversed the judgement of the fifth circuit, 5-4. Here, the Court delivered such a judgement in view of health and safety rights of women.

Background 

The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act was enacted in 2014. It requires the doctor who performs abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of the place where abortion is performed. Admitting privileges is that the doctor and a hospital have an agreement which allows the patient to be admitted at that hospital if they require urgent care.

In 2016, the Supreme Court held a similar Texas law to be unconstitutional. It said that it laid undue burden “on patients seeking abortions”. This law had lead to the shutting down of half the clinics in the state.

As a matter of fact, the law in Louisiana is identical to the Texas law as mentioned above, wherein, the federal court in Louisiana had barred the state from implementing this rule due to its unconstitutional nature.

The district court concluded that with this rule in place only one doctor in the entire state will be eligible to perform abortions. The US Court of Appeals reversed this ruling and allowed the enforcement of the admitting privilege rule.

Arguments 

The case was bought up by an abortion clinic and two doctors who perform abortions. They had filed the petition for the Supreme Court. The state argued that abortion providers did not have a legal right to sue on behalf of their patients. This is known as standing, to challenge the health and safety regulations. The Supreme Court waived this argument as this wasn’t raised in the lower courts.

Julie Rickleman also raised the issue of the doctrine of Stare Decisis, arguing on behalf of the abortion providers. The Louisiana law was modelled according to the Texas law. This would bring about the court’s precedent in the Texas law ruling. The court was pushed to accept the Texas ruling as a precedent.

Court’s Opinion 

Justice Breyer noted that the Louisiana law is almost word to word identical to the Texas law. He held that this law results “in the drastic reduction” in the number of abortion providers. This is a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana.

Justice Roberts expressed his view that the ruling would be different in different states. The court should take into account the factual statistics in each state. The availability of the clinics and the doctors should be considered.

Moreover, Justice Ginsburg gave her opinion that “these laws” would always put barriers to abortion while serving no real benefit to the people. The court zeroed down on the evidence that was submitted. Furthermore, there was no evidence to suggest that the patients experience better outcomes when the doctor has admitting privileges. Breyer stated that the district court was right in its extensive findings. He held that the Supreme Court supports the District Court’s findings of fact. 

Court’s decision 

The court held that the abortion providers have the standing to assert the rights of their patients. The Louisiana Act imposes a burden on access to abortion. It is as severe as the Texas law which had been invalidated by the court four years ago. Under the principle of stare Decisis, the court held the Louisiana Law to be unconstitutional. Justice Breyer was joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan. Justice Roberts gave the Concurring decision which leads to the 5-4 decision in the case. 

 Implications of the Decision 

The decision is a major win for the furtherance of the rights of women in the country. Jamille Fields Allsbrook, director of the women’s health and rights with the Center for American Progress gave her statement rejoicing the judgement. She stated that it’s an attempt to fight and block the undermining of abortion rights for women.

Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for reproductive rights called for the congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. It is a federal bill which will ensure the equal rights to all people from every state.


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