March 4, 2020

40 Days, Abortion

This is it, folks.

Today, March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, the case that jeopardizes the rights enshrined by the Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. This is the first major abortion rights case before the Supreme Court since Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the bench. Follow the latest on Twitter under the hashtag #MyRightMyDecision.

The case, brought by our allies at the Center for Reproductive Rights, concerns a 2014 Louisiana law that would require every doctor who provides abortions to have medically unjustified admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s virtually identical to a Texas law that was declared unconstitutional by the 2016 Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.

Admitting privilege requirements are considered targeted restrictions on abortion providers, or TRAP laws. As this Vox article explains, “The Supreme Court could potentially use June Medical to give a broad blessing to TRAP laws. And such a decision would not need to explicitly overrule Roe in order to drastically roll back or even eliminate the right to an abortion.”

Most critically, if the law is upheld, it would devastate abortion access in Louisiana, particularly for low-income people, young people, people of color, and those in rural communities. We want to note that the three remaining clinics in Louisiana are fellow independent abortion providers: Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport and Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans. They will be most impacted by the outcome of this case.


There’s another way this case could chip away at Roe’s protections. “In June Medical v. Russo, Louisiana is arguing that abortion providers don’t have the best interests of their patients in mind and therefore shouldn’t have standing to bring lawsuits on their behalf,” Carole Joffe and David Cohen, co-authors of the new book Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America, wrote in a recent op-ed. “That’s simply not true.”

Not only is it an untrue characterization of compassionate health care providers, but overturning the precedent that allows abortion providers to sue on behalf of their patients would shift the burden on individuals—pregnant patients seeking abortions, no less—to challenge abortion restrictions. That could dramatically curtail abortion-rights litigation in the future.

“If the justices decide that abortion providers do not, in fact, have third-party standing,” this Mother Jones article explains, “pregnant plaintiffs will likely be required to file suit themselves, almost certainly resulting in fewer abortion-related lawsuits. That, in turn, would take the pressure off states that are unconstitutionally regulating the procedure.”

A decision is expected by the end of June.


While advocates and allies rally outside the courthouse in Washington, D.C., we continue to face daily anti-abortion protesters here in Maine. They have the same goals as the Louisiana lawmakers who passed the clinic shutdown law: To perpetuate abortion stigma and to insert themselves into personal health care decisions that should be between patients and providers.   

We are one week into our 2020 Pledge-A-Patient campaign, and already many people have stepped up to support access to patient-centered sexual and reproductive health care.

We have five weeks to go. Five weeks of gruesome imagery and misleading, medically inaccurate signs. Five weeks of people staring at our patients as they visit our health center in Augusta. Five weeks of patients forced to endure a gauntlet of harassment just to exercise their reproductive freedom.

Please make a gift today that says to every patient: “It’s your right. Your decision.”