(REVISED 8.10.2020) For an in-depth discussion and history of the case, click here.
This lawsuit challenges a 2014 Louisiana law that would require every doctor who provides abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.
An identical admitting privileges law in Texas was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, another case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In that case, the Supreme Court recognized that requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”
There is no medical justification for the admitting privileges requirement. Abortion is extremely safe; the rate of major complications in the first trimester requiring hospitalization is only about 2 in 1,000 women. Meanwhile, hospitals frequently deny admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortions for reasons ranging from ideological opposition to the fact that too few of their patients will ever need hospital care.
Plaintiff(s): Hope Medical Group for Women
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the admitting privileges requirement on behalf of Louisiana clinics, providers, and their patients on August 22, 2014. On August 31, 2014, one day before the law was scheduled to take effect, the federal district court granted our clients’ request for a temporary restraining order, allowing them to continue providing abortions. On January 26, 2016, the district court granted the motion for a preliminary injunction. On February 16, 2016 the State filed an emergency request asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to stay the district court's decision and allow the law to go into effect. The Fifth Circuit granted the State's request on February 24 and the admitting privileges law was briefly allowed to go into effect. The plaintiffs filed an emergency application to vacate the stay with the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26. The Court granted the stay on March 4, allowing the clinics in the state to resume providing abortion care. The case was then placed on hold pending a decision from the Supreme Court in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Center's challenge to a similar clinic-shutdown law in Texas.
Following the historic decision in Whole Woman's Health, the case was remanded back to the district court for additional fact finding. On April 26, 2017, the district court permanently struck down the law as unconstitutional under the undue burden standard, as clarified in Whole Woman's Health. The State filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and oral argument took place on May 3, 2018. On September 26, a three-judge panel issued a 2-1 decision upholding the admitting privileges law, reversing the district court and dismissing the case, contrary to Supreme Court precedent. On October 5, we filed a petition for rehearing en banc, asking the full Court of Appeals to reconsider the case, which was denied in January 2019. After our motion asking the Fifth Circuit to stay its decision was also denied, we filed an emergency stay application with the Supreme Court, which was granted, again blocking the law from taking effect.
We filed our petition for writ of certiorari on April 7, 2019, asking the Supreme Court to summarily reverse the appellate court's decision. Amicus briefs in support of our petition were filed by the American College of Gynecologists and other medical providers and by former federal judges and Department of Justice officials. The State also filed a conditional cross-petition for certiorari on May 20, asking the Supreme Court to review whether Plaintiffs have appropriate standing to challenge the admitting privileges law in the event that the Court grants our petition. On October 4, the Court granted both petitions, which were then briefed throughout the late fall and early winter, along with 27 amicus briefs which were filed in support of the Center's case on December 2.
On March 4, Julie Rikelman argued for the Center at the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 29, in a 5-4 decision, the Court once again ruled in the Center's favor, striking down Louisiana's admitting privileges law.