Did That Really Happen? A Look Back at the Louisiana Abortion Rights Win

A trip down memory lane in June Medical Services v. Russo—with GIFs.

[Person holding a megaphone rallying the crowd of protesters in the front of the Supreme Court.]
Normally you don’t want to hear the words “abortion rights case” and “Roberts Court” in the same sentence. So, we were braced for bad news. We were happy to be wrong. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

For full coverage of June Medical Services v. Russo, check out our Special Report.

Do you know what today is?! It is the ONE-MONTH ANNIVERSARY of the abortion rights win in June Medical Services v. Russo. We should celebrate!

After all, it wasn’t all that long ago we were all sharing Sweaty SCOTUS mornings together, waiting to see if the Roberts Court was going to let stand a Louisiana abortion restriction that is identical to one from Texas the Court found unconstitutional just four years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

The laws at issue in both cases are called TRAP laws. That stands for targeted restrictions on abortion providers, and it means exactly that—TRAP laws are restrictions that target only abortion providers. They are designed to make their jobs too hard and too expensive to do.

In June Medical Services, the TRAP law was an admitting privileges requirement that mandated abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in order to legally perform abortions in Louisiana.

Supporters of the law said it was necessary to protect patient health and safety (it wasn’t) because abortion is a very dangerous medical procedure (it’s not).

Opponents of the law said it was unnecessary (it was) because not only is abortion safer than childbirth (it is), supporters of the law didn’t want to help patients. They wanted to close abortion clinics. (They did!)

A protracted court battle ensued. And when we say protracted we mean protracted. Advocates first sued to block the measure in 2014. There was a trial—a long one!—that produced a lot of evidence that the Louisiana law was designed to close clinics. So the court blocked the law.

The law remained blocked for a long time, too. That is, until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Court went rogue and decided the law should be allowed to take effect. And after another flurry of legal filings the case eventually landed before the Roberts Court.

Normally you don’t want to hear the words “abortion rights case” and “Roberts Court” in the same sentence. There is a 5-4 anti-abortion majority on the Court right now. So, we were braced for bad news.

We thought there was a pretty good chance that the Court would both let the Louisiana law take effect and maybe even say that abortion providers don’t have legal standing to challenge similar laws in the future.

Well readers. Let’s just say WE WERE HAPPY TO BE WRONG. On June 29, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court struck down the Louisiana law. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the fifth and winning vote.


This was very good news. Immediately it meant that abortion access in Louisiana wouldn’t be further decimated. It meant that abortion providers could still bring lawsuits on behalf of their patients. And it meant that other states wouldn’t rush to try and pass their own TRAP laws.

It is hard to overstate how good all of those outcomes are.

One month out though, what does abortion access look like for folks in Louisiana? “Atrocious,” according to one advocate in the state.

Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, Louisiana has enacted 89 abortion restrictions—the most of any state in the United States. This is the status quo for abortion access in the state.

People seeking abortion in Louisiana face obstacles including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period requiring two trips to the clinic, limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization or 22 weeks LMP (last missed period), and a ban on medication abortion through telemedicine.

One month out from their big abortion rights win, advocates “continue to battle on,” including by tackling a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that could ban abortion by declaring that there’s no right to abortion or funding of abortion in the state constitution.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.