By Michelle Erenberg, Executive Director of Lift Louisiana
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law intended to shut down abortion clinics in the state. This unexpected decision came as a huge relief for abortion providers and advocates like us, that have been working for years to protect access to abortion for people in Louisiana.
Our clinics will stay open. For now.
The Louisiana Legislature passed Act 620 in 2014, which would have banned doctors from providing abortion care unless they had admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. On the surface, admitting privileges, like many abortion restrictions, might not sound bad. However, abortion care is extremely safe–safer than having a wisdom tooth pulled–and admitting privileges are medically unnecessary. But a patient’s safety was never the intention with this law; it was intended to shut down clinics providing abortion care.
It nearly succeeded. Louisiana abortion care providers were unable to get privileges and would have been prohibited from continuing to operate if the law were enacted. This would have closed all but one of the three remaining clinics in Louisiana. Because the law was identical to a Texas law ruled unconstitutional in 2016, the Supreme Court really had no choice but to rule the same way.
We are under no illusion that that the future of abortion rights is secure. For decades, legislators have been working overtime to destroy access to abortion, law by law, in ways that disproportionately harm Black and brown communities. In this case, the Court didn’t speak with a clear majority opinion, so this decision will not stop those efforts to ban abortions and shut down clinics.
We know what happens when there are fewer clinics–the burden on people needing abortion care is even greater. Fewer clinics means
These barriers devastatingly impact people living on low-incomes, people of color, young people, LGBTQA+ people, immigrant communities, and rural communities. These attacks on abortion access exist within a racist system that has produced a maternal health crisis that kills four times as many Black people as white people. A system that has produced wide-ranging health and economic disparities for people of color. A system where Black and brown communities experience concentrated police violence while dying at higher rates from COVID-19.
By denying access to time-sensitive abortion care, politicians are placing the health and economic security of pregnant people and families at risk, and exacerbating systemic inequities. Instead of addressing these disparities in care, Louisiana legislators continue to push their own agenda, inserting themselves into medical decisions that should be between a patient and their doctor.
The next battle is already being waged. Anti-abortion politicians in Louisiana have put a state constitutional amendment designed to end access to abortion care in the state on the November ballot. The Louisiana constitution should be about promoting rights and not taking away personal freedoms and bodily autonomy.
Now and in November, we need to stand up to these political bullies and say, “No, you can’t take away my freedom, my dignity and control over my own body.”
To learn more about Lift Louisiana, visit liftlouisiana.org
To find out more about the Louisiana for Personal Freedoms campaign to defeat the Constitutional Amendment visit https://laforfreedoms.org/