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Constitutional Rights and the Public’s Health

June Medical Services v. Russo


June Medical Services v. Russo (U.S. Supreme Court, June 29, 2020): In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court held that a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges is unconstitutional under the Court’s precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). Louisiana Act 602 requires a provider to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of a center where an abortion is performed or induced. The district court made detailed factual findings, concluding the Act provides no significant health-related benefit and “place[d] a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana.” The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, rejecting most of the district court’s findings. Writing for the plurality, Justice Breyer held that the district court’s findings are supported under the deferential clear error standard. The Act served no “relevant credentialing function”; hospitals routinely deny admitting privileges (irrespective of a physician’s ability to safely perform abortions). The Act would leave one clinic with one provider “to serve the 10,000 women annually who seek abortions in the State.” Women would experience long wait times, increased crowding, and greater driving times (1-4 hours)—burdens that would be exacerbated especially for poorer women. Justice Roberts issued a concurrence under principles  of stare decisis. Read the decision here.

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