June Medical Services v. Russo

In response to revelations of the shoddy standards at Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic, which resulted in the death of a woman who came in for an abortion, Louisiana sought to bring abortion clinic standards in line with other surgical facilities. To that end, Louisiana passed HB 60, a law to protect women by requiring that abortion clinics meet the same standards as other surgical centers in the state. The law passed with bipartisan support. One of the requirements for surgical centers under that law was that all doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital with 30 miles of the surgical center. This law protects women by ensuring a continuity of care when complications arise. 

A group of abortion clinics and abortionists sued the State of Louisiana, arguing that by requiring them to have admitting privileges, Louisiana was creating an undue burden on their patients seeking abortions. After a trial court ruled in favor of the clinics, the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the clinics failed to prove that their doctors could not meet the requirements of HB 60.

The clinics filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Fifth Circuit erred by holding that they had not met their burden to establish they could not obtain the necessary privileges. The State of Louisiana counter-appealed, arguing that the clinics lack standing to challenge the law on behalf of their patients. The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert.

In December 2019, the Center filed an amicus brief arguing that because the question involves a woman’s right to abortion, and not a clinic’s right to perform abortions, the proper question is how many doctors are eligible to perform abortions under the law. The Center used available data to show that at least 400 doctors in Louisiana are qualified to perform abortions under HB 60, vastly more the six doctors that met the entire state’s demand prior to HB 60. Accordingly, the law does not present an obstacle to women seeking abortions. The brief also pointed out that the private choice of those doctors to perform or not perform abortions is not a proper consideration on whether the law limits a woman’s access to abortion. Finally, the brief also argued that the large fraction test introduced in Planned Parenthood v. Casey had the same problems of arbitrary application that caused the Court to limit the Lemon test in American Legion v. American Humanist Association.  

In June 2020, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that Louisiana's statute was unconstitutional.