The U.S. Supreme Court continues its string of surprisingly progressive rulings with its 5-4 decision issued this morning in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, striking down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital.

Abortion providers argued that the admitting privileges requirement was unnecessary and unrelated to health outcomes and was intended solely to keep them from being able to provide services because hospitals often do not want to be associated with abortion providers because of the stigma. They argued that abortion is a statistically safe procedure, rarely requiring hospital care for patients.

Today’s majority opinion was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, with Chief Justice John Roberts filing a concurring opinion. The ruling follows the court’s on precedent set in its 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case out of Texas challenging a nearly identical statute here. The court ruling that the Texas case caused an “undue burden” on patients seeking abortions after it forced about half of abortion clinics here to shut down.

Diana Gómez, advocacy manager at Progress Texas, applauded today’s ruling.

“For decades, extremist legislators in our state and across the country have been working to destroy access to abortion, but today, the court did not fall victim to Republicans’ latest attempts,” she said. “Abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care, and while this victory is important, there is much more work ahead to ensure the rights affirmed today are a reality for people across the country.” 

Abortion rights supporters had feared the opposite outcome in the case out of Louisiana, given the rightward swing of the court following the appointment of two justices — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — by Donald Trump. Both of them were in the minority in today’s ruling. Gorsuch, however, voted with the majority in the court’s June 15 ruling declaring that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does, indeed, protect, LGBTQ people from employment discrimination.

Camilla B. Taylor, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, applauded today’s ruling, saying, “Once again, our nation’s highest court has said that states cannot defy its precedent and interfere with patients’ agency over their own bodies.

“Clinics that provide abortion services are a critical lifeline for LGBTQ people,” she continued. “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.” 

— Tammye Nash