New York Attorney General Letitia James today helped win a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court that will protect the ability of women across the nation to maintain access to safe, legal abortions. Attorney General James led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case of June Medical Services v. Gee, in which a medical provider sought to overturn a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. The law at issue was identical to the Texas law that the Supreme Court invalidated in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellersedt, in 2016. The Supreme Court today reaffirmed its ruling in Whole Woman’s Health and held that the Louisiana law was unconstitutional, as it infringes on women’s reproductive freedoms and the right to access an abortion, enshrined in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
“More than 45 years after Roe v. Wade etched into law a woman’s right to access an abortion, states continue to look for ways to chip away at this constitutional guarantee and place burdensome restrictions on women’s reproductive freedoms,” said Attorney General James. “But today’s Supreme Court decision once again makes clear that this right and constitutional guarantee cannot be infringed upon and no roundabout law will push us back to a time of back alley abortions. Despite all the progress made in women’s freedoms over the last five decades, the state of Louisiana has continued to strive to regulate women’s bodies and deprive them of one of their most important constitutional rights. This law was simply about controlling women’s bodies, controlling their choices, and controlling their freedom, which is why we fought it every step of the way.”
In 2014, Louisiana enacted a law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. Had the Supreme Court not struck down this law today, Louisiana would be left with, at most, two physicians at only two clinics across the state who could provide abortion services, despite the fact that roughly 10,000 women obtain abortions in Louisiana each year. Louisiana’s admitting-privileges requirement was identical to a Texas statute that was invalidated and found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Earlier in the case, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana granted a permanent injunction against implementation of the Louisiana law, but, in 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision. June Medical Services and two physicians appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which granted an emergency application to stay the law from taking effect, pending the outcome of the appeal.
In December, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the case because states have an interest in ensuring the availability of safe, medically sound abortion services and in protecting the health and safety of women seeking abortion services, as well as defending the long-recognized, substantive due process right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and the undue-burden standard that governs review of regulations implicating that right. In the brief, the attorneys general argued that Louisiana’s law is an unnecessary and onerous burden that fails to promote women’s health and would end up further limiting the number of abortion providers available to women in Louisiana.
This case was handled by Assistant Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, Deputy Solicitor General Andrea Oser, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions.