Washington, D.C.—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges, reaffirming their 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. By sticking to the precedent set in 2016, the Court affirmed that burdensome, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion access remain unconstitutional.

The science is clear: abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. There are no medical reasons to restrict abortion; restrictions simply create barriers to safe care.

The Women’s Equality Coalition is pleased that the Court agrees that abortion is essential, time-sensitive healthcare, especially in the wake of COVID-19 that has fully exposed the dangerous racial inequalities in our healthcare system. However, it remains clear that we can no longer rely on the courts to protect our fundamental freedoms and we know that nothing will stop the relentless attacks on abortion rights by anti-abortion politicians.

While Virginia has made progress to protect and expand access to safe, legal abortion care during the past legislative session by passing the Reproductive Health Protection Act, we are only just getting started. We still have significant work to do to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, income level, where they live, or any other factor, has the ability to access affordable abortion care. Due to the continuous threats that exist on the federal level, it is clear that states like Virginia must take the lead to secure a future that safeguards the right and ability for everyone to be able to access safe, legal, abortion care, which includes passing proactive legislation to codify bodily autonomy for generations to come.

Amid an ongoing healthcare crisis in America, racial and social inequities become more apparent. We know that Black people are disproportionately impacted by an overall healthcare system that is plagued by implicit bias and excludes people of color from being able to access high-quality healthcare in our Commonwealth. We echo the message from the Virginia Black Caucus who has urged the Virginia legislature to declare racism as a public health crisis during the upcoming special session. And we will continue to focus our work on protecting and expanding access to high-quality reproductive healthcare which can only become a reality for every Virginian  if we work to dismantle the culture of white supremacy, eradicate racial disparities, and affirm the inherent dignity of every human being.

“Four years ago, the Supreme Court held admitting privileges laws unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, but Louisiana chose to defy that ruling by enacting an identical law. Today, the Court stepped in — yet again – and blocked this clinic shutdown law,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “We join Hope Medical Group for Women and all of the reproductive freedom fighters in Louisiana to celebrate this Supreme Court win. In a time where our nation yearns to move forward progressively, the Trump Administration acted to move the dial back decades by filling the courts with conservative judges and justices. This ploy did not work. The Supreme Court was on the right side of history last week, and they are again today. Hope Medical Group for Women won and the Whole Woman’s Health precedent still stands in the USA.”

“Despite today’s victory, It is clear that we can no longer rely on the courts to uphold our basic fundamental freedoms and that the future of safeguarding the right and ability for everyone to be able to access safe, legal, abortion care remains in the hands of state legislatures,”  said Tarina Keene, Executive Director at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “While today’s decision should be celebrated, we know now more than ever, it is imperative that Virginia moves to codify bodily autonomy and decriminalize abortion immediately. We must safeguard the right and ability for everyone to be able to access safe, legal, abortion care, regardless of their zip code, socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, or immigration status. This ruling also comes at a moment when we are seeing COVID-19 disproportionately impact people of color, and where members of Virginia’s Black Caucus are urging the Virginia legislature to declare racism as the public health crisis that it is. Our work is only just beginning as we have a long way to go to correct the wrongs of the past and instead ensure that every Virginian is treated with dignity and respect. That includes dismantling systemic racism in our healthcare systems that addresses racial disparities in abortion care, birth control access, pre-natal care, and maternal health.”

“The Supreme Court just sent a resounding message to politicians all across the country: Stop passing unconstitutional laws trying to make abortion inaccessible,” said Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Though we have a victory in this case, the onslaught of attacks on our access to health care is far from over. For too many across the country, including Black and Brown people, people with low-incomes, and people living in rural communities, abortion is already nearly inaccessible. The fact is, systemic racism is a public health crisis and lack of access to health care exacerbates that. In Virginia, access to abortion care will soon be expanded as a result of the Reproductive Health Protection Act taking effect on July 1. But our fight continues until every person who needs an abortion is able to receive one, no matter what.”

“We’re thrilled the Court’s decision in June Medical affirms that burdensome, medically-unnecessary restrictions on abortion access are unconstitutional. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves what their family looks like and whether, how, and when to have children, but we have a long way to go before that is the reality for everyone,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “In Virginia, we have made some progress by passing the Reproductive Health Protection Act that eliminates burdensome restrictions to abortion access like mandatory ultrasounds and 24 hour waiting periods. However, there are many other barriers to abortion access in Virginia including a lack of insurance coverage through Medicare and Medicaid, so we still have significant work to do to ensure that everyone who makes the decision to have an abortion has the ability to access the care they need when they need it, and we will keep working until that is the reality for all of us.”

Background:

  • The law at issue in this case was Louisiana’s Act 620, which requires an abortion provider to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of anywhere an abortion is performed. This is a medically unnecessary, politically motivated restriction put on abortion providers in order to limit access to abortion.

 

  • In 2016, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court struck down an identical law from Texas.

 

  • On July 1, the Reproductive Health Protection Act will go into effect in Virginia. This legislation eliminates similarly burdensome restrictions including:
    • Requiring patients to undergo a forced, medically unnecessary ultrasound.
    • The 24-hour mandatory delay, which often stretches for far longer.
    • Mandated, biased counseling.
    • The medically unnecessary targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) that regulate the number of parking spaces and the width of hallways for abortion clinics.

 

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