By Will Hall, Baptist Message Executive Editor
WASHINGTON (LBM) – Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday reversed his position from just a decade ago, siding with the four liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Louisiana law, 5-4, that attempted to protect women involved in botched abortions.
In 2016, Roberts dissented against the Court’s ruling against a Texas law that required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of an emergency during an abortion – in order to ensure the doctor could provide continuous care for the patient. But the Texas law also included provisions regarding the abortion facility operations, requiring them to be regulated as an ambulatory care clinic with regard to required medical equipment and certifications.
The Louisiana law, by contrast, only sought to make sure the person performing the abortion was able to stay with the patient throughout emergency and follow up care.
Two cases in recent months highlighted the state’s case for requiring admitting privileges.
In 2019 a woman who endured a botched abortion procedure at a Baton Rouge facility experienced complications that forced her to have emergency surgery which resulted in a total hysterectomy, meaning the baby killed during the abortion was the last child she could have birthed.
Meanwhile, in April of this year, a woman in apparent pain was transported by ambulance from an abortion clinic in New Orleans during a statewide ban on non-essential and non-emergency medical procedures. The case is under investigation to see if the woman had undergone an abortion procedure gone wrong.
Louisiana’s congressional delegation, two of eight are Louisiana Baptists, largely panned the Court’s decision.
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, chairman of the powerful 150-member conservative caucus known as the Republican Study Committee and a member of the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, said every American “should be deeply troubled” by the Court’s actions to strike down the Louisiana law.
“This case was about whether the states have a right and responsibility to institute basic health and safety regulations to protect women – and whether the abortion industry should have the ability to strike down those commonsense health regulations,” he said.
Johnson has strong ties to the case, June Medical Services v. Russo, helping lead an amicus brief (also known as a “friend of the court” brief) on behalf of 207 members of Congress who urged the court to decide in favor of the Louisiana law. Moreover, prior to his election to the U.S. House, he represented Louisiana in the case.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a member of the Alto Baptist Church and a pro-life physician, was equally adamant that the Supreme Court was errant in its decision.
“It makes sound medical sense to require anyone performing surgeries, including abortions, to have admitting privileges at a local hospital,” he said. “Abortions nearly always have a fatal outcome for the baby, and many times it’s the same for the mother. Our [state] legislature took morally justified action to protect women and give them the best chance of survival after botched procedures. As a Christian and pro-life advocate, I will never stop fighting to protect the lives of the unborn.
Both of Louisiana’s members in the U.S. Senate were similarly disappointed.
“Women who use an abortion clinic without hospital admitting privileges are in danger of complications and death should the procedure go badly,” Sen. Bill Cassidy said. A former physician, Cassidy warned that “this danger remains.”
Sen. John Kennedy added his objections, saying the Supreme Court’s decision added “to the misguided legacy of Roe v. Wade.”
“States should be able to put basic health and safety laws in place to safeguard people from the deficient care that abortion clinics too often offer them,” Kennedy said. “We can’t deny our responsibility to protect all lives, no matter how loudly the abortion industry insists that baseline standards of medical care don’t apply to them.”
Meanwhile, the state legislator who authored the struck down law, pro-life Democrat Katrina Jackson, a representative from Monroe, called the ruling “a tragic decision that continues its practice of putting the interests of for-profit abortion businesses ahead of the health and safety of women.”
“While today’s decision is not what we wanted,” Jackson offered, “we will never stop working to put the women of Louisiana above the interests of the abortion businesses.”