On December 2, 2019, NCLR filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of 24 national LGBTQ organizations in the case June Medical Services v. Russo. The case involves a challenge to a law in Louisiana that would force all but one abortion clinic in that state to close, a law that is virtually identical to one in Texas that the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional just three years ago in the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The brief, filed by NCLR and fellow LGBTQ organizations, urges the Court to consider the broader impact of allowing states to force the closure of abortion clinics for unjustified reasons. Many reproductive health clinics offer, in addition to abortion care, affirming health care services vital to the LGBTQ community, including primary care and hormone therapy for transgender people. These health clinic services help to address health disparities experienced by LGBTQ people caused by still-pervasive discrimination in the health care system.
Also outlined in the brief is the disturbing parallel between states seeking to evade the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and those looking to get around the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion.
In Pavan v. Smith, a case brought by NCLR and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Supreme Court in 2017 summarily reversed an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that blatantly ignored Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality nationwide. Arkansas had refused to put the names of both parents on a child’s birth certificate if the parents were of the same sex, in direct violation of Obergefell’s holding that states must grant to same-sex married couples all of the rights, benefits and responsibilities afforded to different-sex couples. The brief explains that the Supreme Court refused then to allow the state to flout its ruling, and it should do the same here.
Amici are represented by NCLR and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.
On June 29, 2020 the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case, in which it struck down the Louisiana abortion restrictions that were being challenged. While the decision was a victory for abortion access, the success was tempered by a concurrence written by Chief Justice John Roberts. While he agreed with four other justices that the Louisiana law must be set aside based on the Court’s prior decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, he wrote separately to reiterate his disagreement with the Whole Woman’s Health decision and signal that future abortion restrictions might pass muster. That concurrence, combined with the shift in the Supreme Court’s composition since the June Medical decision was issued in June, leaves advocates for abortion rights concerned about further erosion of the legal right to abortion.