The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion that could have assured women continuity of care in a hospital if complications should develop.
The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, challenged Louisiana’s 2014 law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Legal challenges to the law prevented it from ever going into effect. A similar law in Texas was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote in a 5-4 decision in the Louisiana case.
In a concurring opinion, Roberts stated the 2016 decision was behind the Court’s June 29 ruling.
“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” wrote Roberts. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”
A Legal Leap
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) had filed an amicus brief in the case, stating Louisiana’s law is similar to laws governing physicians who practice in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), which are much safer for patients.
“The complication rate for procedures done at ASCs is 0.1 percent, which is lower than the (likely understated) complication rate of up to 1.5 percent for abortions,” the brief states.
Robert’s decision raises questions about consistency and plausibility. “Today’s 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court against the unborn and the many other victims of abortion continues the immense harm caused by abortion,” AAPS General Counsel Andrew Schlafly told Health Care News. “Chief Justice Roberts added insult to injury by basing his swing vote on stare decisis even though that is no obstacle to numerous other rulings by the Court as it engages in judicial activism.”
The ruling is analogous to a notorious 1857 Court decision that stated people of African descent could not be American citizens, says AAPS executive director Jane Orient, M.D.
“Today’s ‘peculiar institution,’ upheld by stare decisis, is a mother’s ownership of her child while in her womb and perhaps for a time afterward,” Orient told Health Care News. “Her right to dispose of her ‘property,’ even by taking its life, overrides even the police power of the state to protect her against unsafe practitioners.
“I think history will see the majority Justices in the same way that we now regard those who wrote the eventually overturned Dred Scott decision,” Orient said.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion in the decision, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
AnneMarie Schieber (email@example.com) is managing editor of Health Care News.