WASHINGTON (CN) — Taking up its first batch of cases since the summer recess, the Supreme Court accepted dueling appeals over new Louisiana abortion rules.
June Medical Services and two doctors have described the tenets of Louisiana’s Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law as “sham health statutes” that restrict who can provide abortions. They note that one of the regulations even requires providers to supply to patients “false, misleading, or irrelevant information” about abortion.
In his 2017 ruling, U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles took issue specifically with a requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have credentials to enter nearby hospitals — a rule that opponents say could limit abortions to just one doctor at one clinic.
DeGravelles found that the rule created a burden, especially for poor women, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which involved a similar law in Texas.
Denying any such similarity, however, the Fifth Circuit reversed that key finding in a split decision and refused to rehear the case en banc.
On Friday, the Supreme Court granted a petition from June Medical Services and another from Rebekah Gee, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The state denies that abortion providers have standing to raise such challenges on behalf of their patients, and says the matter is one the Supreme Court should settle definitively.
“Plaintiff abortion providers, nominally proceeding on behalf of their patients, challenge a law intended to provide patients with greater health and safety protections by ensuring abortion doctors are subjected to meaningful, ongoing credentialing review by their peers,” Gee’s brief states. “Yet there is little evidence that their patients’ interests actually align with plaintiffs’ position that the burdens of such protections exceed their value. On the contrary, undisputed record evidence (including of plaintiffs’ poor safety record, inadequate credentialing practices, and questionable efforts to undermine the law at issue) shows plaintiffs are directly adverse to their patients’ interests. It is hard to imagine a worse case for third-party standing.” (Emphasis and parentheses in original.)
Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in taking up the case. Gee is represented by the state Attorney General’s Office, while the Center for Reproductive Rights represents June medical.
The group noted that the circumstances for women seeking abortions in Louisianan is dire, with just three abortion clinics left today, down seven in 2011, for the population of 1 million women of reproductive age.
“Louisiana has tried everything under the sun to shut us down,” Kathaleen Pittman, clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group, said in a statement.