"This is a big win that vindicates what we’ve said all along, which is that the Louisiana admitting privileges law is unconstitutional. This is a victory for the people of Louisiana and the rule of law.”
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in this major abortion case on June 29, 2020, ruling Louisiana’s abortion restriction unconstitutional and affirming the strong legal standard used by courts for decades to determine the constitutionality of abortion laws. The Louisiana law, Act 620, would have devastated access to abortion care in the state. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion for the plurality in the 5-4 ruling.
June Medical Services v. Russo (formerly June Medical Services v. Gee), which the Center argued on March 4, 2020, challenged a Louisiana law (Act 620) that would have prevented doctors from providing abortion services in the state unless they secured admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they provide abortion care. This law was designed to close clinics and undermine access to abortion—and it was identical to a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case brought and won by the Center in 2016.
The Court’s decision in that case made clear that states cannot use deceptive medical regulations to shut down clinics. Since then, other states and courts have complied with the Court’s ruling, recognizing these laws were indefensible. But the state of Louisiana has chosen to openly defy the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling.
Medical experts such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose these types of laws as medically unnecessary and burdensome. Abortion access is already severely limited in Louisiana, which has just three abortion clinics—down from seven in 2011. The admitting privileges law would have forced the closure of two more, leaving only one abortion provider in a state with approximately one million women of reproductive age.
Louisiana’s law was only one part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to regulate abortion out of existence—effectively banning abortion without directly touching the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Since 2011, anti-abortion politicians have pushed through over 450 restrictive state laws to reduce access to abortion care.
Why June Medical Services v. Russo Matters
Is abortion really a constitutional right if there’s no access to it?
Decimated abortion access in Louisiana, leaving just one abortion provider to care for nearly one million Louisianans of reproductive age.
Denied people their constitutional right to access abortion through an underhanded, deceptive and medically unnecessary law designed specifically to close abortion clinics.
Emboldened anti-abortion politicians nationwide to pass even more deceptive and restrictive laws that legislate abortion out of existence and deny Americans their constitutional right to abortion—a right established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and affirmed through subsequent case rulings.
If the Louisiana law took effect, it would have:
Snapshot: Abortion in Louisiana
The state imposes more restrictions on abortion providers than almost any other state. The dozens of restrictions it has passed and tried to enact include deceptive counseling requirements, method bans, mandatory delay periods, TRAP laws, and a ban on abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant (blocked by the courts).
Louisiana modeled its admitting privileges law on an identical Texas law because of the Texas law’s success in closing down clinics. (The Texas law was later ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision.)
Already, abortion care is difficult to access in the state: Because of unnecessary restrictions, the number of clinics in Louisiana has declined from seven in 2011 to three today. If the law had taken effect, just one provider will remain to serve the roughly 10,000 people who obtain abortion care in the state each year.
Poor and rural people and people of color suffer the most from abortion restrictions in Louisiana.
Louisiana has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country—yet it is spending millions in court defending unnecessary restrictions instead of investing to improve maternal health care.