Feminists React to the Case That’s Bringing Abortion (Yet Again) to the Supreme Court

Today, the Supreme Court took on the first major abortion-related case since Brett Kavanaugh ascended to the bench.

(Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

The case in question, June Medical Services v. Russo, is a challenge to a Louisiana law, the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, or “Act 620,” which requires physicians who perform abortions in the state to have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the doctor provides abortions.

The Supreme Court last ruled on an abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in June 2016—a law identical to the Louisiana version in question today. The Court found the law in question then placed an undue burden those seeking access to a safe abortion.

Below, we collect the reactions and statements in the lead up to the SCOTUS decision in June—

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“We should not have to refight legal battles that we’ve already won, but states like Louisiana are in open defiance of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s rulings. It’s alarming and unacceptable that in 2020, some states are still hell bent on denying women access to reproductive healthcare. Once again, the Court must step in to block these clinic shutdown laws and ensure that the promise of Roe v. Wade is realized for all women.”

Kathaleen Pittman, clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group (lead plaintiff):

“Louisiana lawmakers have tried every which way to end abortion care in our state. This law is one of many attempts to shut us down and prevent our patients from accessing abortion services. I am optimistic that the Court will recognize Act 620 for what it is — an attempt to regulate abortion care out of existence. This law would be devastating for the women in our state and would no doubt have repercussions nationwide.” 

Julie Rikelman, Senior Director of US Litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“We are back at the Supreme Court today fighting a law identical to the one we defeated in 2016. We emphasized to the Justices today that nothing has changed in the last four years that would warrant a different ruling. In fact, the medical consensus has only grown stronger that admitting privileges are medically unnecessary and actually harm women by closing clinics and putting abortion out of reach. The Supreme Court declared Texas’s law unconstitutional after it closed roughly half the clinics in that state. In Louisiana, the impact would be even more severe, closing all but one clinic. We are confident the Court will agree that a law it ruled unconstitutional four years ago cannot be constitutional today.”

 Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, chief executive officer of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

“These laws do nothing to protect women’s health. Instead, they prevent access to safe and legal abortion. If the court allows the Louisiana law to stand, it leaves open a dangerous avenue through which states can strip women of their constitutional right to abortion care.”

ACOG also led the medical community in submitting an amicus brief in May as the court decided whether it would take up the case. It read:

“The Court correctly held that the admitting privileges requirement at issue in Whole Woman’s Health posed an unconstitutional and undue burden on abortion access. Laws regulating abortion should be evidence-based and supported by a valid medical justification. Because laws requiring clinicians who provide abortions to have local admitting privileges are neither, this Court should not allow them to stand, regardless of the state from which they originate.”

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a national reproductive justice organization focused on lifting up the voices of Black women leaders at the national, state and regional levels in the ongoing fight to secure Reproductive Justice for all women and girls:

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.):

“Abortion rights are human rights. Abortion care is health care. Reproductive justice is economic justice. And reproductive justice is racial justice.”

Oriaku Njoku, executive director of Access Reproductive Care (ARC) Southeast, in Atlanta, Georgia:

“Today many of us in the reproductive justice movement — myself included — frustratingly found ourselves in the same space we were four short years ago: on the steps of the Supreme Court as the justices considered yet another case that could decimate abortion access.

“In Georgia and across the Southeast, we’ve already seen what it looks like when lawmakers tirelessly work to push care out of reach with medically unnecessary restrictions and near-total bans. We know what we’re up against; we know this is the fight of and for our lives; and today on the court steps, reproductive justice advocates nationwide showed the community of love and support we’ve built through the years, as we stood together and raised our voices in power and solidarity.”

Lakeesha J. Harris, director of reproductive health and justice at Women With a Vision, in New Orleans, Louisiana:

“In Louisiana, nationally, and globally we are in the fight for abortion access, and not just the crumbs for which those in power want us to have, but full access. We have a human right to own the space that is our bodies and a say in the laws that determine our health care needs. Everyone should pay attention to what is taking place in this case and what is happening in Louisiana, as it is not an anomaly, but a measure of what is going on in America currently—and what is to come.”

Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), in Washington, D.C.:

“The future I’m fighting for is one where a young Latina, or Black trans man, or mom struggling to make ends meet, can get safe abortion care with dignity.  We’re at the court today but tomorrow we’ll be in the streets, the state Capitol, and the voting booth making our voices heard.”

Kaylan Tanner, a young activist from New Orleans who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the rally, spoke before an audience of thousands of pro-abortion rights advocates at the #MyRightMyDecision rally about how the Court’s decision could impact her community:

“As a 20-year-old college student in Louisiana, the thought of such a personal decision of if and when I choose to start a family being left up to politicians is terrifying. Young people have the right to make decisions about our lives and our futures, especially when it comes to the decision to have a child. We don’t need politicians and barriers standing in our way. Young people need access to the full spectrum of affordable reproductive care, including sex education, contraception, abortion, and pre-natal and maternal care.” 

Deb Hauserpresident of Advocates for Youth:

“Young people have the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health care without political interference. Medically unnecessary barriers to abortion care are especially harmful to young people who already face challenges accessing the care they need.

“I am proud to support young people from Louisiana and across the country who are challenging the Supreme Court to uphold their constitutional rights and keep clinics open. It is young people who are leading the fight to ensure everyone has access to abortion, and we must follow their lead.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY):

“Without access, our constitutionally protected right to abortion is moot—and that is exactly the goal of the Louisiana law on trial today. This unnecessary and burdensome law from Louisiana is effectively identical to the Texas law that was struck down just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Like its twin, this Louisiana law has no medical or scientific justification. It is simply part of a nationally coordinated anti-choice campaign to deny patients their right to an abortion. We cannot and will not let that happen.  

“This law, and those like it across the country, 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 one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation. 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. That is the purpose of these laws – to skirt around Roe v. Wade. 

“The law and legal precedent are on our side. The ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt means that politicians cannot impose these arbitrary restrictions on abortion access that have no health or safety benefits. As we continue to fight these anti-choice efforts across the country and in the courts, I also remain committed to the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act to put an end to laws that seek to cut patients off from reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Access to medical care—including reproductive care—should not depend on your zip code.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA):

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America: 

“The Court showed an alarming disregard for precedent by even agreeing to take up June v. Russo, which is identical to a case settled just four years ago. The only difference between now and then is that Trump has made good on his promise to stack the Court with jurists committed to ending Roe v. Wade, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women.

“Today’s hearing is a big moment for anti-choice leaders who invested a lot in Donald Trump to do their bidding and undercut abortion rights. They are banking on that investment yielding a Court that will ignore precedent, popular opinion, and public health to move an ideological agenda. But people are watching, and the senators who rubber-stamped Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the most unpopular and controversial Supreme Court nominee of all time, over the outcry from millions of Americans, will be held accountable for Kavanaugh’s actions.  

“Chief Justice Roberts faces a clear choice and we hope he will choose to do right by the Constitution, the rights of women, and the integrity of the highest Court in the land. No matter what happens, NARAL members will continue to strive for a reality where all people have the fundamental freedom to decide what happens to their pregnancies. We will continue to fight politicians who want to impose their will and insert themselves in our most personal decisions. And we will hold those to account who chose to turn the High Court into a political instrument. Our message to those culpable for Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the Court remains clear: We will not forget … not today, and not in November at the ballot box.”   


The team is a collection of Ms. print and digital editors and writers.