Let the states protect women

Katherine Beck Johnson is FRC's Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies. This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on March 4, 2020.

Can Louisiana require abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital? This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, to answer this question.

All eyes were on Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, who were perceived as the likely swing votes, to see the questions they would ask the advocates.

Roberts asked June Medical’s attorney if she agrees that the inquiry under Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was a factual one that must proceed case by case. This might indicate that Roberts does not feel bound by Hellerstedt, but rather will look at June Medical under the specific facts of the case in Louisiana. Yet these are facts that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already distinguished from Hellerstedt, concluding that they did not produce an undue burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

Kavanaugh followed up by asking if the law would still be constitutional if every abortionist were easily able to obtain admitting privileges. This question hints that Kavanaugh does not find admitting privileges unconstitutional, but rather would look to the effect of the law to see if it creates an undue burden.

Though these exchanges seemed to indicate a positive result for Louisiana, the question still remains why the Supreme Court ever turned into a medical review board.

And a better question is this: Why is this even a topic for debate? Why does the abortion lobby want to stop a state from protecting women’s health and safety?

Other similarly situated outpatient surgical centers are required to have all physicians possess hospital admitting privileges to help safeguard the patient’s health. By opposing such requirements only for abortionists, the pro-abortion lobby, who style themselves as defenders of women’s health, seek to deny women obtaining abortions the very same safety precautions.

Why should these women not be afforded the same basic health and safety protections as other patients? Abortion proponents not only advocate against the best interests of women, but they also sue any state that attempts to institute such basic health and safety regulations.

Despite claims that abortion is a safe procedure, complications do occur more often than its defenders would like to admit, and they can be fatal to the woman. For instance, Karnamaya Mongar went into cardiac arrest during her abortion, which was performed by the infamous Kermit Gosnell. She later died. But the abortion lobby would block measures to ensure that such a tragic situation could never happen again.

Louisiana’s law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortionists could help save lives. In the case of an emergency, an abortionist with hospital admitting privileges can accompany a patient to the hospital, get her admitted faster, and explain how the complications arose. All of these factors could help the woman get potentially life-saving care more quickly. An abortionist without admitting privileges, on the other hand, cannot offer this emergency assistance to the woman, nor be present to explain the woman’s condition to the hospital doctor.

The Louisiana requirement is a standard, commonsense law. Many other medical professionals are required to abide by such laws, and it is not controversial in any other context. All ambulatory surgical centers are required by law to have a physician on staff with hospital admitting privileges. Ambulatory surgical centers in Louisiana are facilities that are outpatient medical centers (the patients go home after treatment) that have medical staff, offer same-day medical procedures, and do not offer overnight medical accommodations, just like abortion clinics.

Louisiana has the authority to regulate ambulatory surgical centers, and likewise, it should have the authority to regulate abortion clinics. In fact, in Washington v. Glucksberg, the Supreme Court has already recognized a state’s ability to regulate the medical industry, particularly noting that the government has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.

With its hospital admitting requirement for abortionists, Louisiana is clearly trying to preserve medical ethics by protecting women and bringing abortion clinics in line with the very same commonsense regulations required of others. It is past time that the free pass given to abortion clinics come to an end, and that is precisely what Louisiana is doing with a commonsense law to ensure women’s safety.