AAFP Joins Supreme Court Filing Against Louisiana Law

Amicus Brief Says Law Creates Burden Without Improving Safety

June 11, 2019 04:06 pm News Staff

The AAFP has joined several other specialty organizations in an amicus brief(www.supremecourt.gov) tied to a pivotal women's health care decision before the U.S. Supreme Court.

[gavel and legal book]

The filing supports the petitioner in June Medical Services LLC v. Gee,(www.supremecourt.gov) a lawsuit challenging Louisiana's Act 620,(www.legis.la.gov) which requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a licensed hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they practice.

"Stated plainly, the privileges requirement does nothing to improve the health or safety of women," reads the brief, which was filed May 20. "Not only does the admitting privileges requirement lack any medical basis, it also substantially burdens women's access to abortion."

The brief was submitted by 10 organizations, including the AAFP, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

If the stipulation for admitting privileges sounds familiar, there's a good reason: Louisiana's law, passed in 2014, nearly mirrors a Texas statute that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt,(www.scotusblog.com) the court's majority wrote that the Texas law, which included a mandate for admitting privileges, as well as a requirement that abortion clinics maintain facilities equivalent to those of an ambulatory surgical center, violated the Constitution by placing an undue burden on patients seeking access to abortion.

The May 20 brief argues that Louisiana's law places the same unconstitutional burden without providing any medical or patient-safety benefit.

"Requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers is as irrelevant to promoting the well-being of Louisiana women as it was for Texas women," the brief says.

In fact, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana cited the Hellerstedt decision when it struck down the law(www.courthousenews.com) in 2017. The ruling noted that four of the state's six abortion providers would close if the law stood, leaving some 70 percent of women who sought abortion in Louisiana unable to receive treatment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit later reversed that decision,(law.justia.com) ruling that Louisiana's law was distinct enough from Texas' that it didn't conflict with Hellerstedt.

The amicus brief argues that Louisiana's threatens women's health by limiting access to health care.

"Laws that unnecessarily restrict women's access to abortion -- like Act 620 --disproportionately impact poor women, women of color and young women," the brief says. "Women in these groups are more likely than others to experience unintended pregnancies. They are also more likely than others to seek abortion care. Women of color and poor women are also more likely to experience complications or deaths in attempting to carry a pregnancy to term."

According to a ranking based on CDC data,(www.americashealthrankings.org) Louisiana has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country.

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