Access to abortion care in Louisiana for low-income women was spared another dire setback by the U.S. Supreme Court. On Feb. 9, the Court in June Medical Services v. Gee temporarily stopped Louisiana from requiring that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges – an unnecessary requirement that runs contrary to medical standards and has already been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If the law were allowed to go into effect, it would be nearly impossible to provide abortion care in Louisiana. The high court stayed temporarily the law from taking effect, while it decides whether it will consider the merits of the case later this year. As The New York Times notes, the high court will make that decision later this year but would not be argued before the justices until next year.
The 5-4 decision to uphold the temporary stay demonstrates how precarious our abortion rights are today. Justice Kavanaugh in particular would have allowed the law to proceed, demonstrating clearly that he does not intend to respect Supreme Court precedent on abortion care.
Nevertheless, at this moment the temporary stay is a much needed, albeit limited victory for many women already struggling to access abortion care in Louisiana. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Supreme Court found that there was no evidence that the admitting privileges requirement has anything to do with safe medical care. In fact, abortion is so safe that physicians rarely, if ever, needed to admit an abortion patient. Therefore, the law is an undue burden without benefits to women. Clearly, Louisiana officials think they can defy the high court now that Kavanaugh is a justice. Like the Texas law, Louisiana places onerous restrictions on women attempting to receive abortion care, like a mandatory waiting period, ultrasounds, and requires that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges to local hospitals, even though many counties in the state do not have hospitals. These restrictions and hurdles disproportionately harm black women, and historically underserved communities in the state.
All women must freely decide what is best for themselves. The Louisiana law, like its predecessor in Texas, was crafted by politicians bent on denying women their rights and harming their health in the process. These types of laws and other restrictions on abortion are pushed by well-funded, right-wing activists who have driven the movement to demonize abortion and deny women liberty.
States need to move in the opposite direction, taking action to bolster and protect the health and liberty rights of women. Lawmakers should consider contraceptive equity laws, instead of working to harm women and deny them health and rights.