This morning the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The issue in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, was whether this limit actually protected the health of pregnant women and wasn’t in place just to make it more difficult to have an abortion. This was very similar to the issue the Court last visited in 2016 (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt) when it overturned a Texas abortion doctor admitting privileges requirement.

In Hellerstedt, Roberts agreed with the minority that the Texas law was constitutional, but in June Medical Services this time, he agreed that the Louisiana law was unconstitutional. Roberts explanation for the difference is that courts should not generally overrule their prior precedents “absent special circumstances.”

Another issue in the case was whether doctors should be able to sue on behalf of their patients. This has been used in abortion cases because by the time a case gets to trial, particularly to the Supreme Court level, the issue is moot so it’s unlikely that a patient will maintain “standing” or the right to sue throughout the process. The Court ruled that doctors do have this right. The issue of standing in abortion cases was addressed in Roe v. Wade, when the Court  applied the  “capable of repetition, yet evading review” standard to abortion cases.

Physician admission cases notwithstanding, abortion remains a contentious issue before the Court and will likely arise in other cases.

 

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