Supreme Court Could Make Roe 'Meaningless' with Major Case Wednesday

Source: Michael Foust | Contributor

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a major abortion case that could lead to the dismantling of Roe v. Wade and its supporting decisions, pro-choice groups say.

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, involves a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals upheld the law in a 2-1 decision.

The fact that the Supreme Court even took the case is controversial – and worrisome for pro-choice groups. The justices overturned a nearly identical law in a 2016 decision and could have reversed the Louisiana law without hearing oral arguments.

But since that 2016 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy – who supported the Roe decision that legalized abortion nationwide – has been replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Neil Gorsuch has taken the seat formerly held by Antonin Scalia, who opposed Roe but who died four months before the decision was released. The Texas law was upheld 5-3.

Pro-choice groups fear that supporters of the Louisiana law already have the five votes needed to uphold it.

“The Supreme Court could really start to unroll abortion rights,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told USA Today.

The ACLU, which supports legalized abortion, has warned that the Louisiana law “would force most abortion clinics in the state to close their doors and block people from accessing an abortion.”

Other pro-choice groups agree.

“Roe becomes meaningless if there is no access to abortion,” said Kathaleen Pittman, the administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law.

“[T]he Act’s purpose is ‘to improve the health and safety of women undergoing an abortion’ by ensuring that their provider can qualify for hospital-admitting privileges,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in a Jan. 2, brief.

Unless the law is allowed to go into effect, Francisco argued, Louisiana law will favor abortion providers over other doctors in the medical field.

“The law should not ‘elevate the status’ of abortion providers ‘above other physicians in the medical community,’ … and Act 620 advances that interest in evenhanded regulation by closing the regulatory gap that previously required physicians at [ambulatory surgical centers] – but not at abortion facilities – to obtain admitting privileges,” the brief said.