Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
U.S. Supreme Court

Lieff Cabraser Files Amicus Brief Urging Reversal of Fifth Circuit Decision Drastically Limiting Abortion Rights in Louisiana

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein attorneys Kelly M. Dermody, Tiseme G. Zegeye, and Madeline M. Gomez represent Amici, reproductive and racial justice scholars, in support of Petitioners June Medical Services, et al., requesting that the Supreme Court reverse the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision to require that doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed. June Medical Services L.L.C., et al. v. Gee (Nos. 18-1323, 18-1460) challenges a 2014 Louisiana abortion restriction (“Act 620”) mandating the within-thirty-miles admitting privileges for doctors performing abortions in the state. If Act 620 were to go into effect, only one clinic would remain to provide services for the approximately 10,000 women per year seeking abortions in Louisiana.

An identical admitting privileges law in Texas was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just two years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292 (2016). The Court held that the Texas admitting privileges requirement imposed numerous obstacles to access to abortion and provided no health benefits to women, resulting in an “undue burden” on women’s right to abortion. Id. at 2311-13.

Despite the Court’s binding precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the identical admitting privilege requirement, Louisiana Act 620.

Under the Court’s undue burden standard, the real-world impact of the abortion restriction’s burdens must be considered. This amicus brief centers the perspective of the women most at risk under Act 620, black women. Black women in Louisiana disproportionately live under extreme circumstances of disadvantage, including higher rates of poverty, un-insurance, intimate partner violence, and reproductive coercion. Act 620 will place substantial and wide-ranging burdens on black women’s ability to access abortion care, including greater driving distances, longer wait times, and higher costs. Considering these real-world impacts of Act 620, Amici argue that Act 620 should be struck down as unconstitutional because it will impose nearly insurmountable burdens on black women’s abortion access while providing no countervailing health benefits.

“Our firm is proud to work with Professors Khiara M. Bridges and Dorothy E. Roberts, and all of the reproductive and racial justice scholar amici, to bring focused attention to the devastating and disproportionate impacts on black women that this unconstitutional law will impose,” stated Tiseme G. Zegeye, attorney for amici.

Amici are the following scholars:

  • Kathryn Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law;
  • Aziza Ahmed, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law;
  • Khiara M. Bridges, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law;
  • Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law and Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School;
  • Kimberly Mutcherson, Co-Dean and Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School;
  • Priscilla Ocen, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School;
  • Radhika Rao, Professor of Law and Harry & Lillian Hastings Research Chair, UC Hastings College of the Law;
  • Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School;
  • Cynthia Soohoo, Professor of Law, City University of New York School of Law;
  • Patricia J. Williams, University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities, Northeastern
    University School of Law;
  • Ruqaiijah Yearby, Professor of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law.

Read a copy of the Amicus brief.