At the start of a new term, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear an abortion case that could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
The court announced on Friday (October 4) that over the next few months, it will hear arguments in June Medical Services v. Gee. The case focuses on a Louisiana law, Act 620, that says doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. If the law is allowed to go into effect, reproductive rights activists say the state will have just one doctor who can provide abortions. About one-third of Louisiana’s abortion clinics would also close, reports Slate.
About 10,000 women seek abortions in the state each year, reports CNN. “Louisiana has tried everything under the sun to decimate access to abortion care,” plaintiff Kathaleen Pittman, clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group, told The Washington Post. “The situation here is already dire and this law would be the last straw for most of the remaining clinics. We’re hopeful that the court will recognize how devastating this law would be for women in our state.”
The decision to take on the case comes at a time of increased efforts by states to pass restrictive abortion laws that they hope will be heard by SCOTUS and lead to the end of Roe.
The Louisiana law at issue, Act 620, was modeled after the Texas statute that the court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health. Like that measure, Act 620 requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. As one judge on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, the Texas and Louisiana laws are “almost identical.”
“Access to abortion is hanging by a thread in this country, and this case is what could snap that thread,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “There’s only one reason the court would not strike down the Louisiana law and that is because Justice Kennedy, who voted to protect abortion access just three years ago, has been replaced with Justice Kavanaugh. This is what we’ve warned about.”