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Abortion-Rights Groups Weigh in on SCOTUS Privileges Fight (1)

Dec. 2, 2019, 7:25 PMUpdated: Dec. 2, 2019, 10:47 PM

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.

A coalition of about three dozen Democratic and independent senators and 161 Democrats in the House also filed a friend of the court brief Dec. 2 urging the court to toss out the lower court’s decision.

The Louisiana law is “but one example of a recent wave of state legislation designed to impede access to abortion services,” the bicameral brief signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued.

“These state laws go far beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety,” the lawmakers said. The lawmakers accused state legislators of enacting a law “in defiance of this Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade. Doing so, they said undermines the nation’s confidence in the legislative process and the rule of law.’'

“Laws that purport to address a problem that does not exist and instead seek to controvert the rule of law detract from the validity of the legislative process,” the lawmakers 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.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com; Lydia Wheeler in Washington at lwheeler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com