By early Wednesday, supporters and opponents had already gathered, some spending multiple nights at the United States Supreme Court. At 10:00 a.m., nine justices would hear a challenge to Louisiana's women’s healthcare law, upheld by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges in order to ensure safety for women and continuity of care in the event of an emergency.
The abortion industry attorney, Julie Rikelman, spoke first. Her arguments focused on “court precedent,” referencing the 2016 Hellerstedt decision– a case in which the Court had struck down Texas’ admitting privileges law. Rikelman demanded that abortion providers have standing to bring suit – not based on their desire to perform abortion or earn a profit – but rather on patients’ right to access abortion.
Justice Samuel Alito cross-examined Rikelman, asking why precedent should apply when the obvious conflict of interest exists between abortion providers’ desire to be unregulated vs. the interests of patients who want to be treated by “competent physicians.” Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer all quickly came to Rikelman’s aid – tossing softball questions to highlight her client’s best arguments.
Chief Justice John Roberts later intervened to refocus on the merits of “admitting privileges,” and whether any burden might be caused in the form of clinic closures. He asked whether Louisiana's historical facts could lead to a different conclusion than Hellerstedt. Justice Brett Kavanaugh pressed the question further by citing specific examples of Louisiana doctors, who were qualified to carry admitting privileges, but didn't even attempt to obtain them. Do admitting privilege laws cause an undue burden when no effort has been made to obtain them? Rikelman refused to answer that question, fumbling through other details.
Next up was Louisiana Solicitor General, Liz Murrill, whose defense was quickly and consistently interrupted by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who asked: “Why do doctors have to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion, in light of the small number of women who have in-clinic abortion complications, from a procedure “far safer than childbirth?”
Murrill shot back, citing the reasonable standards of care expected throughout Louisiana, the dismal credentialing procedures undertaken by the clinics themselves to qualify doctors as competent to perform abortions, and the recent case of a patient’s perforated uterus requiring hospitalization. Murrill went on to cite a case where an abortion provider had hired a radiologist to perform abortions! She systematically detailed abortionists’ sordid history in record keeping and tracking complications, and then unpacked a decades-old statewide Medical Emergency that had been declared by former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster – following a sting operation which revealed unhealthy conditions, filthy surgical instruments, and blood on the floor at a Baton Rouge abortion facility.
Justice Elena Kagan attacked Murrill, asserting that a medical license was sufficient evidence of competence – a contention Murrill dismissed with evidence. The remainder of Murrill’s time was spent fending off aggressive – some would say even contemptuous – attacks from the four pro-abortion justices.
U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall closed out oral arguments sharing the position of the U.S. Department of Justice, highlighting the extreme positions Rikelman had staked out. The four liberal justices peppered Wall with additional questions on many of the detailed factual issues that had already been covered. Wall held his own!
My front row seat – next to Katrina Jackson, sponsor of Act 620, Ben Clapper and Sharon Rodi of Louisiana Right to Life – provided ample view to the irrational left, who find Louisiana's modest claim that a right to define terms upon which healthcare in our state is delivered is an impermissible objective!
Louisiana's assertion that a woman who seeks an abortion retains a right to reasonable medical care sent four U.S. Supreme Court Justices and feminists throughout America into all-out panic mode. You can read the transcript from Wednesday’s oral arguments here.
The Court will issue an opinion on this case sometime in June. Whether or not they choose to uphold Louisiana law, one thing is clear: Liz Murrill came to D.C. on a mission! She fulfilled that assignment with accuracy, efficiency, and discipline.
My Prediction: 5-4, Life Prevails!
In His Service,
Gene Mills President Louisiana Family Forum
P.S. LFF is hosting a Pastors Briefing on Tuesday, March 10th. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has been invited to share thoughts on oral arguments. RSVP is required for this event. Please click here for more information.
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