What You Missed About the Supreme Court's Abortion Rights Trial

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a case that may change the current state of abortion rights in the United States. While this isn’t the first abortion case since the monumental Roe v. Wade (1973), it will be the first since both of Trump’s nominations - Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - have taken a seat on the bench. Kavanaugh, who has a history of ruling conservatively, replaced Anthony Kennedy after his retirement in 2018. Kennedy was known for being the Supreme Court’s swing vote on abortion.

June Medical Services LLC v. Russo took the floor on March 4. The case, according to SCOTUSblog, will determine whether or not  “upholding Louisiana’s law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital conflicts with the Supreme Court’s binding precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.” In 2016, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was a Texas law turned down by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 majority vote. While the Louisiana and Texas laws that appear in the cases are virtually the same, this decision was made before Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were justices on the Supreme Court. The new decision will likely not be released until June.

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Based on the justices’ voting history, it is expected for Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to vote to strike down the law. Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are sure to vote to uphold it. All eyes are scrutinizing Chief Justice John Roberts’s remaining vote. Roberts is known for being an institutionalist, which means he tends to not overturn current precedent. However, he tends to vote conservatively and has voted against abortion rights in the past.

Although critics are anticipating the ultimate vote will be to uphold the Louisiana law, most are not expecting a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade. If the Supreme Court does vote to uphold the law, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Alexis McGill shared with CNN that “what they would be doing is gutting it so much and creating the right template for state legislatures to then follow suit and then opening up those floodgates.” A report from the National Public Radio analyzed that 24 states would prohibit abortions, 21 states would keep them legal and available and five states and D.C were undetermined. In Texas, before Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was overturned by the Supreme Court, over half of their abortion clinics closed.

Although Rove v. Wade was nearly 50 years ago, abortion rights are still an incredibly divisive issue in politics today. On March 4, as the Supreme Court heard June Medical Services LLC, rallies in support of both the pro-life and pro-choice movement were demonstrated. While it is unlikely for the Supreme Court to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement is concerned that abortions will become inaccessible and unsafe. Elisabeth Smith, a member of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated "a right is certainly important, but if you cannot access abortion care, that right is meaningless."

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