The US Supreme Court handed down a major victory for reproductive rights on Monday, ruling that a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana is unconstitutional.
In the 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a 2014 law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of any clinic where they provide abortion services.
It can often be difficult for abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges due to the overwhelming stigma still surrounding abortion. Requiring doctors who provide abortion care to have these privileges would significantly limit the number of doctors legally allowed to perform abortions in the state.
The two Louisiana doctors who sued to have the law repealed claimed that the law would have left only one doctor (with admitting privileges) to perform abortion services for more than 10,000 women every year.
The Louisiana law is also nearly identical to one in Texas, which the Supreme Court previously struck down in 2016 due to the “undue burden” it placed on patients.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, claiming that the law provides no health benefits to those seeking an abortion and would ultimately “drastically reduce the number and geographic distribution of abortion providers, making it impossible for many women to obtain a safe, legal abortion in the State and imposing substantial obstacles on those who could.”
Breyer was joined by Justices John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan in the majority vote.
While reproductive rights advocates are calling the June Medical Services v. Russo decision a victory, they are also weary that this ruling might cause other states to lash out and pass restrictive abortion laws of their own.
“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow,” CEO and president of the Center for Reproductive Rights Nancy Northup said in a statement.
“With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” she said.
In order to help ensure that safe and legal abortions are available to everyone everywhere, Northup is rallying Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would protect access to abortion care and safeguard against any state bans and restrictions. In effect, the bill aims to uphold and protect the rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade.