For legal nerds, the alarm has sounded: The Supreme Court decided this morning that it will hear June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, the first big abortion case it has granted since President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, took the bench. This may be the Court’s first step in radically shifting its approach to abortion cases, gradually undoing the standards that have supported a constitutional right to abortion for the past 45 years.
The case, which concerns a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, is very similar to one the Supreme Court decided just three years ago, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In that case, the Court found that a Texas law placed undue burdens on women seeking abortions, severely reducing their access to the procedure. The abortion-rights movement saw Whole Woman’s Health as a major victory. But that was a different time, and a different Court. In taking on June Medical Services, the current justices have signaled their discontent with the decision in Whole Woman’s Health; perhaps they want the chance for a redo.
The legal questions in June Medical Services are complicated, and the lower courts that heard the case do not agree on the facts. While the Louisiana law requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, the trial court found that doctors who tried to secure these privileges were routinely denied them, despite their “good-faith efforts” to navigate the “opaque, byzantine, and in some cases Kafka-esque application processes required by Louisiana hospitals.” It found that the Supreme Court had just addressed a nearly identical set of circumstances in Whole Woman’s Health and, following this precedent, struck down the Louisiana law.