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June Medical Services v. Gee: Pro-life and pro-choice supporters agree verdict will impact abortions across US

On March 4, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear two consolidated cases, June Medical Services v Gee and Gee v June Medical Services, which are being predicted as the greatest threats to abortion rights in the country in decades
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

If there is one thing that both sides on the abortion rights spectrum agree, it is that the June Medical Services v. Gee case hearing will be crucial for abortion access through the country. In fact, they believe it could hurt what the landmark 1973 judgment in Roe v Wade stands for irrespective of whether it is dismantled or not as a judgment that gives pregnant women liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. 

On March 4, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear two consolidated cases, June Medical Services v Gee and Gee v June Medical Services, which is being predicted as the greatest threat to abortion rights in the country in decades.

At the center of the fight is the fact that admitting privileges being made mandatory for abortion providers at a local hospital, starting with Louisiana, where June Medicals is an abortion provider. "Louisiana is openly defying the Supreme Court’s decision from just three years ago, in which they found an identical Texas law, unconstitutional,” said Nancy Northup, president, and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "We are counting on the Court to follow its precedent, otherwise, clinics will needlessly close and there will be just one doctor left in the entire state to provide abortion care."

From prison time to licenses being canceled, the law has serious repercussions for providers. Approximately 10,000 people make use of abortion services annually. The law is widely seen as a TRAP (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers). "If the admitting privileges law is upheld, women in Louisiana could be left without a single abortion provider,” explained Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, that works with abortion providers across the country to counter extremist violence. 

"Due to the fear of anti-abortion violence and harassment, hospitals can and do deny hospital admitting privileges to abortion providers," she said pointing out that anti-abortion extremists could "isolate and stalk doctors and clinic staff" and resort to more extreme measures to terrorize them like a "justifiable homicide" list.

National Women's Health Network's Policy Advocacy Director Sarah Christopherson added that June Medical Services v Gee would also likely impact Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case from Texas where the Supreme Court struck down a law nearly identical to the Louisiana law. Calling it a "floodgate". She said that this case could be used "to gut the ability of abortion providers to sue on behalf of their clients". 

Christopherson further added saying, "In other words, a woman seeking an abortion could win a court order for herself but not for anyone else. If that happens, it will truly open the floodgates and there will be almost no limit to the attacks on reproductive health that states will attempt even if Roe technically remains intact." 

This case is the first abortion-related case that the Supreme Court will hear after Justice Brett Kavanaugh took on the reigns from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was considered to be a more moderate conservative. He was known to uphold abortion restrictions but also keep a check on those laws that broke its backbone. The way this case finds its end is also expected to set a predicament on how abortion cases would be treated in the future.

Some anti-abortion activists see it as an opportunity to not only "uphold" the Texas and Louisiana admitting privilege laws but also revisit Roe. Eric J. Scheidler, Executive Director of Pro-Life Action League, an anti-abortion group from Chicago said, "I think it's likely they will uphold the Louisana admitting privileges law at issue in this case, and they may even overturn their 2016 ruling in the Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt. So that would allow not only Louisiana but also Texas and other states to require abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital."

Scheidler is positive that Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will uphold the admitting privileges law.

Calling admitting privileges "a major concern," he said, "So many abortionists have no links to the local community, flying in and out of town to do abortions, and leaving it up to the ER to deal with complications."

While there is no medical benefit through this law called Act 620, abortion rights activists have said that it is nothing but a guise to shut down abortion clinics. While those that have put forth the bill claim that it is so the patient has easier access to medical care in case of an emergency during an abortion, emergencies during the process are a rarity. 

They may even go so far as to overturn Roe v Wade outright, although unlikely, said Scheidler. "My guess is John Roberts would like to have a stronger 6-3 majority in place before taking a step as serious as overturning a near half-century-old precedent like Roe v. Wade," he said. He added that "the pro-life movement" were eager to see states take their own decisions in matters of abortion.

Here is everything you need to know about the case.