By Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director, Louisiana Right to Life
I know it may sound like wishful thinking, but Monday’s Supreme Court decision in June Medical Services v. Russo, while certainly deeply disappointing, has two positive silver linings. Hear me out.
First, it is critical to note that President Trump’s nominees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, sided with Louisiana and the pro-life movement. We are optimistic that their rulings this week will lead to decades of decisions that respect the ability of states to legislate to defend unborn life and protect the health and safety of women from the for-profit interests of the abortion industry.
Second, Chief Justice Roberts’ concurrence delivered a blow to pro-abortion forces looking to dismantle the pro-life movement once and for all. It has put an abrupt check on the abortion industry’s radical interpretation of the 2016 Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.
In 2016, the pro-abortion wing of the court ushered in a new standard of review in the case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Under Hellerstedt’s extreme standard that permits pro-abortion judges to balance the benefits versus burdens of an abortion-related law that hasn’t even gone into effect, every common-sense pro-life law in America, from informed consent to ultrasound laws, was in jeopardy.
Emboldened by this radical decision, pro-abortion attorneys in 2017 filed a host of lawsuits aimed at bringing down Louisiana pro-life laws that have been on the books for years. One of those lawsuits even challenged laws regulating sanitary toilets in Louisiana!
The Chief Justice cleared up the confusion surrounding this unreasonable test, restoring the court to same undue burden test that has been used to uphold hundreds of pro-life laws. Potentially, his decision could open the door to more Supreme Court cases in the future that could further challenge what Justice Thomas correctly called an “ill-founded abortion jurisprudence.”
Don’t get me wrong. The Chief Justice erred in striking down our law based solely on precedent. If the 2016 decision was wrong, then it is still wrong in 2020. The Constitution did not change. We have worked for six years to hold abortion businesses to the same health and safety standards as all other outpatient facilities. The court protected this dangerous loophole, and women in Louisiana remain in jeopardy.
But June Medical Services v. Russo seems to have delivered a major blow to the long-term pro-abortion goal of dismantling every pro-life law in the country. Louisiana gained ground for the pro-life movement on Monday, and the abortion industry lost ground. While not what we wanted right now, and the delay is frustrating to say the least, we hope the decision in time sets the stage for a larger win in the future for both life and for women’s health.