LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion protections on Monday, striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction that, if allowed to be implemented, could have made the state the first to be without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade.
The landmark ruling has been met with mixed reactions.
Although there are no abortion clinics in Southwest Louisiana, one thing that both lawmakers and advocates for abortion rights agree on is that the latest decision affects all women.
This case was seen as an important test of the high court’s new conservative majority. It would have required any doctor who performed abortions to have admitting rights at a nearby hospital. Pro-choice supporters argued that the law was not medically necessary and was a strategized attempt to restrict access to abortions across the state.
In 2017, some 94% of Louisiana counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 72% of Louisiana women lived in those counties.
With the highest court’s latest move, some see it as a win for abortion rights but some believe it’s more complex.
“I am disappointed because I do care for Louisiana women, I care for their health,” said Becky Girola, Exec. Director--Lake Charles ABC Pregnancy Resource Center. “I know that Louisiana we were across party lines, we were all on the same page and wanting what’s best for Louisiana women and it’s the abortion business that won here...a business that profits off of women.”
That opposition was also met by Louisiana lawmakers.
“6 to 3 plurality opinion, we’re very disappointed in what the court has done today...this was a long-fought battle that began 6 years ago,” said Congressman Mike Johson (R-La.).
“It’s very disappointing to see the Supreme Court add to the misguided legacy of Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).
Governor Edwards also spoke out about the landmark ruling:
Had the decision passed, it would have left one abortion clinic and one doctor to serve all of Louisiana. While not in the abortion business, Girola says while they typically see a lot of women walk through the doors of the ABC Pregnancy Resource Center...every encounter is about education.
“Over 1,000 women per year in Lake Charles come to see us..about 25 percent come in with the intent to abort,”said Girola. “Really no one wants an abortion, they’re just considering and need a safe place to come talk about what their options are.”
Those on the defense’s legal team say its a victory for the state but there’s still a long road ahead.
“It is very hard to open a clinic and maintain a clinic in Louisiana because Louisiana has more restrictions on abortion than any other state. The win today preserved access but does not expand access and that’s why it’s critical for us to expand access particularly in the south and midwest,” said Julie Rikelman, Lead attorney--June Medical v. Russo.
In 2017, 9,920 abortions were provided in Louisiana, though not all abortions that occurred in Louisiana were provided to state residents: Some patients may have traveled from other states, and some Louisiana residents may have traveled to another state for an abortion. There was a 2% decline in the abortion rate in Louisiana between 2014 and 2017, from 10.8 to 10.6 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Abortions in Louisiana represent 1.2% of all abortions in the United States.
In Louisiana, the following restrictions on abortion were in effect as of March 1, 2020:
- Abortion would be banned if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
- A patient must receive state-directed counseling, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility.
- Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act may not provide coverage of abortion.
- The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.
- The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
- Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
- A patient must undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the patient.
- An abortion may be performed at 20 or more weeks postfertilization (22 weeks after the last menstrual period) only in cases of life or severely compromised physical health, or lethal fetal anomaly.
Only 2 of the 5 doctors who provide abortions in Louisiana have obtained admitting privileges. One in New Orleans and one in Shreveport.