Feminists Go on the Offensive as Supreme Court Decides Monumental Abortion Case, June Medical Services v. Russo

This Wednesday, March 4, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Louisiana case June Medical Services v. Russo, in which the court will once again review an unnecessary state law that requires doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges near their clinic. 

(Victoria Pickering / Flicker)

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Just three years, ago the court struck down an identical Texas law, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, as an undue burden on women’s access to abortion—but that was before Justice Kennedy retired and Justice Kavanaugh was named as his replacement. 

The critically overlooked aspect of these kinds of laws is the effect of anti-abortion violence, stalking, harassment and death threats against doctors and clinics. Extremists know these kinds of tactics make hospitals and doctors fearful, and cause hospitals to deny admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions. Threats and violence against abortion providers in Louisiana are pervasive. 

On-the-Ground Activism in Louisiana

Most recently, Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project organizers were on site in New Orleans when Operation Save America targeted physicians at their homes, private medical offices and clinics. Extremists distributed WANTED-style flyers with doctors’ photographs, names and personal information. Feminist Majority’s team worked with clinics to increase their security measures, and together with local community allies, trained and coordinated volunteers as legal observers and patient escorts. 

Anti-Abortion Extremism Nationwide

Louisiana is not the only state where abortion providers are targeted by violence. An estimated one in four abortion providers experienced severe violence and threats of violence, and fully 52 percent of responding clinics reported targeted intimidation and threats against doctors and staff—including stalking, death threats and cyber-stalking.   

Currently in Louisiana, only one of the doctors who provides abortions has hospital admitting privileges, and he has said that if the law goes into effect, he will be forced to quit out of concern for his safety and the safety of his family. So, if the Supreme Court upholds the law, Louisiana will be left without a single abortion provider. 

Putting Women at Risk

When lawmakers in Louisiana and other states like Mississippi, Kansas and Oklahoma pass laws requiring hospital admitting privileges, they know doctors will be denied—and clinics will close. These laws put women’s lives at risk and disproportionately impact women of color and poor women. This is especially cruel in a state like Louisiana that already has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation.

It is possible that the court’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo sets the stage for the dissolution of Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights are at stake. Be sure to stay informed and ready to fight back with Ms


Ms. is partnering with Rewire.News to bring you special coverage of the case. Rewire.News will be reporting live at 9:45am ET / 6:45am PT on Facebook from the steps of the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Tune into the Ms. Facebook page before the hearing begins for on-the-scene reporting and analysis. 

To catch up on the details of the case before the March 4th arguments, listen to the Boom! Lawyered podcast’s preview of June Medical v. Russo now. 

And podcast hosts and legal experts Jessica Mason Pieklo and Imani Gandy will be following up with a new podcast episode on Wednesday afternoon, breaking down what happened in the hearing. 

About

Katherine Spillar is the executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.