The first abortion case taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court since Kavanaugh took the bench could decide the future of abortion access in this country
(New Haven, Conn.)––Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review Louisiana’s Act 620, an abortion restriction nearly identical to one of the Texas restrictions struck down by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt just three years ago.
In Whole Woman’s Health, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling making clear that medically unnecessary abortion restrictions, such as Texas’ requirement of local hospital admitting privileges, should not be allowed to stand because it imposed an undue burden on women seeking to access health care. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which heard the nearly identical Texas law, blatantly disregarded Supreme Court precedent when it upheld Louisiana’s abortion restriction in September 2018. If this law goes into effect, Louisiana could become the seventh state in the country to have only one abortion provider.
By granting review in this case, the Supreme Court is agreeing to reconsider its own 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health—and if the court allows this Louisiana law to stand, it will be breaking with its own precedent and dismantling constitutional protections to abortion access. If the court overturns Roe or renders it meaningless, it could leave 25 million women of reproductive age in America at risk of losing access to abortion.
“Although the American people overwhelmingly agree that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is willing to ignore public opinion and constitutional precedent to consider further eroding the right to access safe, legal abortion,” said Kafi Rouse, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). “The Trump Administration has given every anti-abortion politician in the country permission to use lies, manipulation, and misinformation to restrict our most basic freedom to control what happens to our body. The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case validates every fear we held about appointing Kavanaugh to the bench—this is an attempt to use the judicial branch to advance a dangerous, harmful, and misogynistic agenda that disregards the human right to health care and disrespects a woman’s right to choose.”
“Access to abortion is hanging by a thread in this country, and this case is what could snap that thread,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). “Three years ago, the Supreme Court decided that laws like this one in Louisiana had no purpose other than to make abortion more difficult to access. There’s only one reason the court would not strike down the Louisiana law and that is because Justice Kennedy, who voted to protect abortion access just three years ago, has been replaced with Justice Kavanaugh. The Trump administration and anti-abortion state politicians will not stop until they have gutted our rights and our freedoms. We will never stop fighting, alongside our partners at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the brave providers on the ground in Louisiana, to ensure that every single person is still able to access abortion.”
The Louisiana law, like the Texas restriction the court struck down, would force abortion providers to obtain local hospital admitting privileges—a medically unnecessary move meant to make abortion more difficult to access. The Supreme Court has already found that admitting privileges did not help “even one woman obtain better treatment” in Texas. And, medical experts agree Louisiana is no different. The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians and the American Medical Association oppose forcing abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges.
Already, 1 in 3 women live in a state where abortion could be outlawed if Roe is overturned. While abortion restrictions impact everyone who can become pregnant, they hit people of color and those who are struggling to make ends meet the hardest—the result of systemic barriers to health care because of our country’s racist and discriminatory policies. While most wealthy, white women may be able to find a way around these laws, far too many people — especially those who already face racism, homophobia, and transphobia — will be left with no options at all.
While some politicians will stop at nothing to strip reproductive rights from Americans, support for abortion access is at its highest level on record—77% of Americans say they do not want to see Roe overturned. This year in nearly half the states, champions have pushed for bills that codify abortion rights into state law, repeal harmful policies that create barriers to care, and treat abortion as health care, not a crime. PPSNE, as a member of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, was instrumental in passing the Reproductive Privacy Act of 2019, protecting the right to access safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island and creating a critical backstop to the Trump Administration and the shift in the balance of the Supreme Court if Roe is threatened. Connecticut has already protected in statute the right to safe and legal abortion.
With continued attacks on reproductive and sexual health at the federal level, it is more important now than ever that advocates for reproductive freedom continue to speak up and take action to safeguard access to safe, legal abortion. PPSNE won’t stop fighting to protect the human right to health care.