June Medical Services v. Russo Explainer

On March 4, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a major case on access to abortion care. June Medical Services v. Russo (the case was formerly known as June Medical Services v. Gee) challenges a law in Louisiana that would leave the state with only one clinic providing abortion care.

Read on for frequently asked questions about the case and how we’re working hard alongside our partners to protect abortion care access.

What is June Medical Services v. Russo?

In June of 2014, the state of Louisiana passed a law requiring every physician providing abortion care to have admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles from where they provide abortion care. The law, identical to a law struck down in 2016, was immediately challenged.

The case worked its way through the federal courts and at this point lies in the hands of the United States Supreme Court.

What is the timeline?

In December, amicus briefs were filed from hundreds of patients, physicians, lawyers, and various other reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates. These briefs made various cases for why admitting privileges are unnecessary for physicians who provide abortion care to have. Physicians for Reproductive Health collaborated with three other organizations on an amicus brief sharing the unique perspective of physicians across the country, and why they know that this is an attack on patients’ ability to access compassionate health care.

On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and rallies will take place in front of the Court in DC and in New Orleans, Louisiana. Learn more about the rallies and RSVP.

A decision is expected by the end of the Supreme Court term in June.

What are admitting privileges?

Abortion providers do not need admitting privileges. Admitting privileges are professional relationships that physicians who normally provide health care in an outpatient or clinic only setting can have with inpatient hospitals. Because almost all abortion care can be performed in an outpatient, clinic setting, and the fact that we know abortion care is incredibly safe, it is medically unnecessary to require that physicians who provide abortion care have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Admitting privileges requirements are merely a pretext for restricting access to abortion care.

Our Fellow Dr. David Eisenberg explains in our amicus brief why these requirements are unnecessary and limit access to care. Because of stigma, distance, and religious hospital policies, admitting privileges were impossible to obtain in parts of Missouri where he works.

This is exactly what opponents of abortion are trying to do: make it so impossible for physicians to provide abortion care and shutter clinics.

Isn’t this the same as the Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt case from 2016?

Yes. June Medical Services v. Russo challenges an identical law to the one struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016. Both revolve around whether or not admitting privileges are necessary for health care providers to have when providing abortion care. The Whole Woman’s Health decision ruled that admitting privileges are an undue burden for patients and providers of abortion care.

Because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on the same topic of admitting privileges, this gives the Court an opportunity to revisit their decision from 2016.  The Supreme Court will also hear arguments about whether abortion providers can sue on behalf of their patients.

Will this only impact abortion access in Louisiana?

This case affects the entire country. Decisions made by the Supreme Court can impact states across the country because they become precedent for other courts to follow.

Will this reverse Roe v. Wade?

Roe v. Wade is not on appeal in this case, but the Supreme Court has the opportunity to revisit its decisions on abortion. In fact, more than 200 members of Congress signed an amicus brief urging the Court to reconsider its abortion rulings, including Roe.

Several states have abortion bans on the books that cannot be enforced because of Roe and subsequent decisions. Should Roe be weakened or overturned, states could try to reactivate those laws. Additional states have passed trigger bans that would go into effect if Roe were overturned. It’s also important to note that several states have explicit protections for abortion in their state laws and state constitutions.

How can I get involved?

Join us, our partners, and supporters across the country on oral argument day, March 4, as we rally to protect abortion access.

  • Rally with us at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Join us outside the U.S. Supreme Court at 8 am EST on March 4 (plan to arrive at 7:30 am). Learn more and RSVP.
  • Rally with us at Lafayette Square Park in New Orleans, LA. Come show your support at 8 am CST on March 4. Learn more and RSVP.
  • Tune in from home. Our friends at the Center for Reproductive Rights will be livestreaming the rally on their YouTube channel at 8 am EST on March 4.
  • Spread the word. Download this toolkit for signs and sample language you can use to share why abortion access is #MyRightMyDecision.
  • Speak out in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act. Call your federal lawmakers and urge them to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill to create federal protections for abortion.