Supreme Court Hears First Major Abortion Case with Kavanaugh

Blog / March 5, 2020

June Medical Services v. Russo challenges a Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If the law were to take effect, only one of Louisiana’s three remaining abortion clinics would remain open, leaving just one doctor to provide abortion care for the entire state. The Supreme Court heard arguments on March 4th.


Reality check on laws restricting abortion access

  • This law will not protect women’s health, but is designed to further restrict women’s access to health care.
  • Admitting privileges depend on several factors having nothing to do with a doctor’s experience, including the number of patients they send to a hospital. Abortions are generally extremely safe and very few women need to be admitted to a hospital, making it difficult for an abortion provider to obtain admitting privileges. 
  • There are just three abortion clinics in Louisiana, and many women have to drive for hours to reach them. Also, some women simply obtain pills to take in their own home. If there are complications, a woman will most likely seek treatment at a hospital near her home, not near the clinic where she received care.


Get the facts: June Medical Services v. Russo

  • In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt, the Supreme Court struck down an almost identical law in Texas in 2016, ruling that it served no medical benefit and placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
  • The only thing that has changed since then is the makeup of the court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the majority in striking down the Texas law, is no longer on the court, while conservatives Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch have joined.
  • The court will rule on whether their previous declaration that the Texas requirement is unconstitutional applies to all admitting privileges requirements, or is restricted to that law in Texas.


What happened at the Supreme Court?

  • Chief Justice Roberts will most likely be the key vote in this case. While he typically upholds restrictions on abortions, even he seemed skeptical of this one.
  • Justice Ginsberg and Justice Sotomayor consistently pointed out flaws in the Louisiana attorney’s arguments and questioned the notion that admitting privileges at a nearby hospital are an indication of a doctor’s credentials.
  • Justice Kavanaugh, a newcomer to the court with an anti-abortion record, asked few questions but seemed to argue that the Louisiana law requiring admitting privileges would be constitutional if providers can easily get those privileges.
  • Justice Alito argued a procedural point that clinics should not be able to bring lawsuits on behalf of patients, and Justice Breyer noted that the court has recognized the rights of abortion providers to sue on behalf of their patients in at least eight cases.


We must stand strong for abortion rights!

  • 77% of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld. A strong majority continues to believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
  • Already, six states have only ONE abortion clinic remainingNine states have passed laws banning abortion as early as six weeks – before most people would even know they were pregnant – even those these bans are currently blocked by the courts. Abortion remains legal in all 50 states. 
  • If Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned, abortion rights would no longer be protected in more than half of states and all U.S. territories. Explore this tool to learn more about the current abortion bans, restrictions, and protections in our country.