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SCOTUS Weighs In On Highly Consequential Louisiana Abortion Case

The ruling on June Medical Services v. Russo could potentially lead to the closure of abortion clinics around the country.

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On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo — the outcome of which could potentially threaten abortion access around the country.

What is June Medical Services v. Russo?

The case challenges a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals within 30 miles. Admitting privileges mean that doctors must obtain the right to admit patients at a local hospital in order to perform abortions. Abortion rights advocates, abortion clinics, and medical professionals argue that the law has no medical benefit and creates potential for further abortion access restrictions.

What are the stakes in this case?

The case revolves around whether Louisiana can legally enact admitting-privileges laws to doctors at standalone clinics, or whether the law violates citizens’ rights to access abortion under Roe v. Wade. If SCOTUS upholds the Louisiana law, other states will likely enact similar restrictions, which could lead to clinics closing. 
 
The Center for Reproductive Rights is litigating the the case on behalf of abortion clinic June Medical Center. The state of Louisiana, as well as anti-abortion advocates, argue that only patients — not abortion clinics and doctors — should be allowed to bring abortion cases to court. If the court agrees to this, patients themselves would have to come forward and fight on behalf of future cases, which means interrupting their lives to participate in a lengthy court battle. The stigma that surrounds getting an abortion could also prevent patients from going to court and publicizing their circumstances.
 
Clinics and doctors have traditionally been able to bring these lawsuits because of the third-party standing doctrine, which allows third parties to file claims if they have a close relationship with the people impacted. But the state is asking the Court to find that abortion clinics and providers don't have that standing.

What Does the Supreme Court think so far?

This is one of the most consequential abortions rights cases in decades, and it’s being heard in front of a conservative-majority court. During Wednesday’s hearing, the justices heard arguments from lawyers for and against the law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leading liberal justice, challenged the constitutionality of the restrictive abortion law throughout the arguments. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who —along with Neil Gorsuch — was one of two conservative-leaning justices appointed by President Trump, received support from anti-choice groups during his confirmation and replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was considered a swing vote on reproductive rights. So, with a majority anti-abortion SCOTUS, it seems possible that Louisiana's restrictive law could stand.

SCOTUS is expected to render a decision sometime in June.