The Supreme Court Just Ruled to Protect Access to Abortion

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June 29, 2020

Today, in a 5-4 judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law which required abortion service providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Court affirmed its precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, finding that the Louisiana law served only to make it harder for patients to access abortion services and was therefore unconstitutional.

Lambda Legal joined LGBTQ advocacy organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of abortion service providers and celebrated today’s ruling.

“Once again, our nation’s highest Court has said that states cannot defy its precedent and interfere with patients’ agency over their own bodies,” said Camilla B. Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Director of Constitutional Litigation.

“Clinics that provide abortion services are a critical lifeline for LGBTQ people. They are often the only health care providers who offer services free of judgment and stigma and provide care that is respectful and culturally competent. In an environment where the right of LGBTQ people and women to access health care, including essential abortion services, is under attack, today’s decision is welcome.”

For decades, legislators have worked tirelessly to chip away at the right of patients to access abortion services. In 2014, Louisiana passed a law which if allowed to go into effect would have required health care providers who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, an unnecessary and burdensome requirement that would have shuttered clinics and left little to no access to health care for patients in the state.

In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down a virtually identical law out of Texas, when it ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that states cannot place onerous restrictions on abortion service providers that create an undue burden for women seeking to exercise their right to an abortion.

For LGBTQ people it is a challenge to find and receive competent and non-discriminatory health care services. LGBTQ people report experiencing high rates of discrimination in health care settings, which contribute to disparities and negative health outcomes.

Recently, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, published a rule that attempts to roll back anti-discrimination protections in health care, including for LGBTQ people, under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

While the rule does not change the law, it creates confusion that will inevitably hurt LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV. Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.

“The fight to protect patients’ constitutional right to an abortion and the right of LGBTQ people to receive care free of discrimination continues,” added Taylor. “Abortion services, just like any other health care service, should be affordable and accessible for everyone.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights represents June Medical Services, LLC. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in June Medical Services v. Russo (formerly June Medical Services v. Gee) on March 4, 2020.

The amicus brief was authored by Shannon P. Minter, Julianna S. Gonen and Christopher F. Stoll of National Center for Lesbian Rights and David J. Weiner, Allyson Himelfarb, Andrew Tutt and Avishai D. Don of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

In addition to Lambda Legal, signatories include Athlete Ally, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), Equality California, Equality North Carolina, Evan Wolfson (founder of Freedom to Marry), Family Equality, FreeState Justice, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Human Rights Campaign, Mazzoni Center, Modern Military Association of America (MMAA), Movement Advancement Project (MAP), National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Equality Action Team, National LGBTQ Task Force, Silver State Equality-Nevada, Southern Poverty Law Center, The National LGBT Bar Association, Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Whitman-Walker Health.