Supreme Court should put a stop to the abortion industry getting a free pass

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. Mike Johnson is U.S. Congressman for the 4th District of Louisiana. This article appeared in the Washington Times on March 3, 2020.

More than 10,000 women walk through the doors of Louisiana’s abortion clinics every year — and any one of them could face life-threatening complications. Unfortunately for these women, their abortion providers can’t admit them to a hospital if their abortion goes wrong. 

A large bipartisan majority of the state legislature tried to protect these women by enacting Louisiana Act 620, which simply requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Yet abortion activists still challenged this law in June Medical Services v. Russo, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on appeal today.

The evidence suggests the abortion industry’s concern is not for their patients — but for their profits. We know — because 20 years ago in Louisiana, we saw it firsthand.

At the time, one of us was a young state legislator and the other a young attorney fresh out of law school. When a woman almost died inside the Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge — the largest abortion provider in the state, and notorious for having substandard practices — the young attorney (Johnson) represented her and helped her go to court against the clinic. It was that story, and the gruesome undercover video that followed, that laid the groundwork for the young lawmaker (Perkins) to author — and for the state to later pass — some of the first abortion clinic regulations in the country. Now, two decades later, the most recent clinic regulations are before the Supreme Court.

Those original regulations were passed out of urgent necessity. When a local investigative reporter brought a television camera into the Delta Women’s Clinic, it exposed the industry’s shocking, unsanitary conditions to the world. The video of rusted surgical instruments and filthy operating stations caused an uproar, and clinic workers soon came forward to provide sworn statements about the horrific practices inside. 

Recognizing a legitimate health crisis, legislators joined together to pass common sense health and safety regulations almost unanimously. Louisiana’s experience sparked investigations of the abortion industry elsewhere, and led to similar commonsense regulations in other states. They were desperately needed.

If something goes wrong in an invasive abortion procedure (and all too often, it does), women deserve to know that they’ll receive competent emergency care. If an abortionist has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, he or she can expedite the patient transfer process, and save critical time. While other ambulatory surgical centers have this important requirement, abortion clinics want a pass. The reality is that laws like Louisiana’s save lives. Now, all these laws hang in the balance before the Supreme Court.

Along with the state of Louisiana, 22 other states, the Trump administration, 207 members of Congress, and countless many other organizations and individuals believe it’s time for the court to put women’s health first. As Family Research Council’s amicus brief in support of Louisiana argues, Act 620 is squarely within the state’s right and responsibility to regulate the medical field, and should clearly be upheld as constitutional. 

Just as importantly, abortion providers should not be allowed to go to court to strike down health and safety regulations that protect the very women the abortion industry claims to represent. This is a serious and problematic conflict of interest that the Supreme Court should correct. Women are quite capable of speaking up for themselves if they want to file suit against Louisiana’s law, and they themselves should be the parties with legal standing to do so. Perhaps none have done so here because they actually want their abortion providers to be held to higher standards of care. 

When deciding the Russo case in the coming months, the Supreme Court should affirm the right of states to provide oversight and regulation of abortion clinics, and also take the opportunity to clarify that abortion providers cannot truly represent the interests of women when contesting health and safety requirements designed to protect those same people. As a result, these clinics should not have “standing” to be able to sue on behalf of the women they put at risk. If the justices get this question right, it could change the entire landscape of American abortion law for the better. And it will be decades overdue.