The filing of two legal briefs in the Supreme Court has set up a new abortion case — from Louisiana — for prompt action by the Justices.  At issue in the case of June Medical Services v. Gee is whether the Court will block enforcement of a state law that clinics and doctors argue will force the closing of all but one clinic, with one doctor, for the whole state.

Louisiana officials filed their defense of the law on Wednesday, and the challengers filed their reply brief earlier Thursday.  The two documents sharply dispute what is at issue, and what the real-world impact on access to abortions in the state will be.

Although the application by the clinics and doctors was filed with Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles emergency legal matters from the area of the Fifth Circuit, it appears that the other members of the Court have given some attention to it.  At a hearing on Wednesday on a Texas abortion case, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., for example, commented on the specifics of the dispute in Louisiana.

The Louisiana law requires doctors performing abortions to have professional privileges to admit patients to a hospital within thirty miles of the clinic.   That is nearly identical to one of the restrictions in dispute in the Texas case.  The other has to do with a requirement that abortion clinics upgrade to the capacity of a surgical center, even if they do not perform surgeries.

With the legal documents now on file in the Louisiana case, the Justices could act upon it at any time, and perhaps sometime on Friday.  If it does act, this could give an early indication of how the eight Justices now regard the admitting privileges requirement.  It is merely a coincidence that the two states’ similar restrictions have come up so close together at the Court.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, New abortion case ready for the Court, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 3, 2016, 5:37 PM),