On June 29, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Breyer delivered the 5-4 opinion in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, holding that Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, is unconstitutional.
Generally, this is a win for abortion supporters, and a decision many did not expect. Justice Breyer relied heavily on the factual record developed by the District Court and ruled that the law was the same in its effect and purpose as the Texas law struck down in 2016. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a concurrence, ruling on grounds of stare decisis and providing the 5th vote needed to strike down the restriction. His concurrence is quite narrow, though, and it suggests that the Chief Justice interprets prior caselaw as giving far more deference to states than the Court’s 2016 ruling did.
This SCOTUS decision reaffirms what was already established 4 years ago in the Whole Woman’s Health case—that admitting privilege requirements unconstitutionally burden abortion access while providing no health or safety benefits. Although this is another significant victory for abortion rights, Louisiana still has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. State laws that impede access disproportionately harm people of color and rural communities, standing in the way of achieving reproductive health equity. This narrow ruling is only one step in the ongoing work to dismantle the numerous barriers to safe abortion care for all.
For Temple Law reactions to other SCOTUS decisions, click here.