The U.S. Supreme Court has received a new amicus curiae brief in a potentially significant abortion rights case.
In the brief, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch urges the justices to rule against those seeking to overturn a Louisiana statute designed to restrict the number of medical professionals legally able to perform abortions within the state, arguing that they lack the standing necessary to litigate the matter.
Unsafe Abortion Protection Act
The case in question, Gee v. June Medical Services, revolves around Lousiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act. In short, the statute requires doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics.
This may seem like a perfectly reasonable requirement to many, but those challenging the law disagree. They believe that if such a law were to go into effect, it would be virtually impossible to get an abortion in the state. In fact, they claim that the law itself would immediately lead to the shutdown of nearly all abortion facilities in Louisiana.
Those looking to uphold the law — including the Trump administration — have argued that the plaintiffs have exaggerated the potential impact of the statute, according to Bloomberg News, and that they have failed to make a good faith attempt to comply with the law’s requirements.
Litigants’ standing questioned
While the above information is a brief synopsis of the actual substance of the case, Judicial Watch doesn’t believe that the Supreme Court even needs to address the merits of the arguments.
Rather, the group believes that the case ought to be dismissed for lack of standing on the part of the group opposing the Louisiana law. In short, standing is the legal ability of an individual to bring a lawsuit to the courts based on their connection to and stake in the outcome of the case.
According to Judicial Watch, allowing doctors to claim legal standing on behalf of their patients — which is the exact scenario in this case — would be detrimental to both our legal and political systems, and thus, ought not to be allowed.
“Petitioners’ claim of assumed third-party standing would effectively gut both the purpose and application of third-party standing,” the group argued in its brief to the Supreme Court. It went on:
They would essentially be free to challenge any law that even indirectly touches on abortion simply because they fall into a category of favored litigants. This defeats the purpose of the political process, thwarts the will of the people, and contravenes the role of the Legislature.
In every case where litigants like Petitioners have used assumed third-party standing, legislative hearings and debate, public hearings and debate, and political and election exercises have been for naught — completely neutralized by Petitioners’ desire to leapfrog the political process and usurp the courts.
Arguments set for March
Only time will tell whether the Supreme Court agrees with Judicial Watch and finds that the physician opponents of the Louisiana law lack the required legal standing for the case to proceed.
If not, then the substance of the case will be heard, and let’s not make any bones about it — it is a big deal. For the first time in years, the Supreme Court has a conservative majority, and the way the current iteration of the high court rules on this case could provide valuable insight as to how it might rule on other abortion rights cases that could produce a wholesale re-evaluation of the reasoning behind the pivotal Roe v. Wade decision.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case on March 4.