Reproductive Rights Face New Supreme Court Test

CARLY KABOT: The confirmation of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court ensured that President Donald Trump’s legacy would outlive his time in office. On Friday, October 4, 2019, the court agreed to hear June Medical Services v. Gee, the first major abortion case on the docket since Trump’s appointees joined the bench. 

The consequence of the Court’s ruling could extend far beyond the women of Louisiana. June Medical Services v. Gee threatens all those who have staunchly defended a woman’s right to choose. The Court’s new 5-4 conservative majority has the power to undo 45 years of precedent supporting a constitutional right to safe and legal abortions. A verdict in favor of Gee would not overturn the landmark case Roe v. Wade, but the decision could either overrule or severely limit other important cases for abortion rights that would render Roe useless. 

The case involves a challenge to a Louisiana law that would severely limit access to abortion services by requiring abortion providers to acquire admitting privileges at local hospitals. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, it would affirm the precedent set in 2016 that found a similar Texas law imposed an "undue burden" on the right to receive abortions. If the Supreme Court allows the law to stand, many of Lousiana’s few remaining abortion clinics could close. 

The Case

The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (Act 620) requires “that every physician who performs or induces an abortion shall ‘have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.”  In reality, promoting Act 620 as a push towards higher medical standards for women is a petty facade for strictly restricting access to abortion. The law does nothing for women’s health except endanger it. 

Lower courts have obstinately disagreed over the constitutionality of Louisiana Act 620, which Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has defended as not only pro-life, but pro-woman.  Though the law was struck down by a district court judge in 2017, that decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth claimed the facts were substantially distinct from those of the Texas case

Lousiana has asked the Supreme Court to narrow its previous verdict to make restrictions on abortion legal as long as the legislator believes the law serves a valid purpose. The issue is glaring: A decision in favor of Lousiana would make it the prerogative of the overwhelmingly male-dominated legislature to infringe on decisions women have a right to make with their doctors and their families.

The Future of Legal Abortion in America 

Reproductive rights are under threat by men who claim they know better than a woman what is best for her body, her health, and her family. Act 620 is an exertion of control and objectification, jeopardizing the rights of some for the beliefs of others.

Care not only because you are a woman, or because you have a mother, a sister, or a girlfriend. Care because you are human, because you believe in reproductive freedom, because it is your civic duty as an American citizen. We live in a nation conceived by those who aimed to give us the very thing today’s legislators are trying to take away: the freedom to choose. Hopefully June Medical Services v. Gee will not be the beginning of the end to legal abortion in America and the freedoms our leaders are charged with upholding. 

Carly Kabot is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service from Westchester, New York. She is an aspiring political journalist. 

Jeff Cirillo