Amicus Briefs Filed in Abortion Case Before the Supreme Court

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Hundreds of organizations and individuals urge Supreme Court to strike down Louisiana abortion restriction

12.02.2019

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A collection of nearly 200 organizations and more than 700 individuals representing leading voices in medicine, law, and public policy, along with people impacted by abortion restrictions, today filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court voicing opposition to a law that would make it nearly impossible for Louisiana residents to obtain abortion care.

The 27 “friend of the court” briefs represent a united front against medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that undermine the constitutional right to access abortion. Signers include major medical associations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 197 members of congress, attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia, reproductive justice advocates, civil rights organizations, social science experts, the American Bar Association, prominent legal scholars and former judges, abortion providers, faith leaders, and close to 380 individuals sharing stories of their personal abortion experience. 

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, challenges a Louisiana law (Act 620) that would force every abortion clinic in the state to close except for one, leaving a single doctor able to provide abortion care. The disputed law, which prevents doctors from providing abortion services unless they have secured admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, is identical to a restriction struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case litigated and won by the Center.

The case also defends the Supreme Court’s longstanding precedent that abortion providers and clinics have legal standing to challenge abortion restrictions that burden their patients’ fundamental right to access abortion. 

“This diverse and unprecedented array of expert voices, individual women, and advocates paints a compelling portrait of the immense stakes in this case,” said Nancy Northup, President & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It’s clear that support for abortion access and the rule of law spans all political parties, all professions, and all walks of life. We are relying on the Supreme Court to heed these urgent warnings and protect our constitutional right to access abortion free from burdensome restrictions, as it did just three years ago and has done consistently for more than four decades.”

Prominent voices in law and constitutional scholarship are urging the Court to uphold its own precedent and reaffirm the constitutional right to abortion care. They are joined by a bipartisan collection of hundreds of elected officials, former judges, and attorneys general who warn that failing to do so would create a patchwork of abortion access across the country and further embolden anti-abortion states to flout the Court and the Constitution.

As in Whole Woman’s Health, major medical groups have united to oppose this medically unnecessary law. That historic 2016 decision found that limiting access to reproductive care while providing no medical benefit is an unconstitutional undue burden on the fundamental right to abortion. The AMA and ACOG, joined by over ten leading medical associations, social science researchers, and medical staff, make a clear and compelling case that abortion is a safe procedure with a complication rate lower than a fraction of one percent, and admitting privilege requirements do nothing to improve the health and safety of women who seek abortion care.

The amicus briefs filed also represent an unprecedented array of individual women’s voices, boldly speaking out about the importance of abortion access in their lives. Brief signers are diverse people from across the country and all walks of life, and include 368 attorneys, ranging from law students and solo practitioners to law firm partners and judges, all providing personal stories that demonstrate how access to abortion is essential for women to be equal participants in society. They also speak to the impossibility of serving as individual plaintiffs in abortion challenges that bring intense public scrutiny on private decision-making. 

A collection of briefs from abortion providers and advocates outlines the monumental stakes for this case in Louisiana and beyond. The number of abortion clinics in Louisiana has fallen from seven in 2011 to three today.  If the admitting privileges law were to go into effect, there would only be one abortion provider remaining in a state with approximately one million women of reproductive age.  The harms would include health risks, financial burdens, and long term harm to the well-being of families and children--just to name a few. These harms would fall most heavily on low-income people, people of color, young people, and those facing barriers to travel.   

The Center originally filed June Medical Services v. Gee in August 2014. Plaintiffs are women’s health center Hope Medical Group and doctors who provide abortion care. Julie Rikelman and Travis J. Tu of the Center for Reproductive Rights are lead counsel for plaintiffs, along with co-counsel O'Melveny & Myers LLP.