© 2021 KRCU Public Radio
Southeast Missouri's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Discusses Upcoming Supreme Court Abortion Ruling


The U.S. Supreme Court made two landmark decisions this week. Monday, the court made it illegal for employers to fire workers based on their sexual identity. On Thursday, it ruled that the Trump administration cannot proceed with a plan to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The Supreme Court still has more highly anticipated decisions to make, including one on abortion rights. Nancy Northup is president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

NANCY NORTHUP: Thank you for covering this.

SIMON: Tell us how you see this case coming up, a Louisiana case.

NORTHUP: Well, this is actually an issue that we have already won in the Supreme Court four years ago. So in a case called Whole Women's Health in 2016, we successfully challenged and won in the Supreme Court a Texas admitting privileges law that imposed an undue burden on women seeking abortions. And what the court said then is that there was no medical purpose for this law. It was an underhanded tactic, in essence, to shut down clinics, and it was going to harm women by closing half the clinics in Texas.

And the Louisiana law here is identical to the one in Texas that the court already struck down - not similar. It's identical. And, indeed, it was modeled on the Texas law. And it would harm women even more than in Texas. So we basically are having a deja vu all over again in the Supreme Court in having to relitigate this issue, but we're optimistic that we should prevail because this is an issue that the court has already decided.

SIMON: A law was passed in Louisiana that would've required physicians to have admitting privileges at hospitals, and the people behind that law said it was for the protection of women.

NORTHUP: That's right. But both in 2016 and again in this case, it was established at trial and we have support in the Supreme Court from, for example, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other leading medical groups that make really clear that this admitting privileges law is a barrier to abortion access that has no benefit for patients. And so it's really important to realize that this is actually just an attempt to close the clinics in Louisiana with no benefit for women.

SIMON: And would the closure of clinics in Louisiana particularly affect women of color?

NORTHUP: Oh, that is absolutely true. Abortion access in Louisiana is already hanging by a thread, and there are about a million women of reproductive age in Louisiana. And the overwhelming majority of women who seek abortion care in Louisiana are living in poverty or low income, and so they will be the hardest hit. And specifically, abortion restrictions would disproportionately harm African Americans. They are 70% of abortion patients in Louisiana, and they already live under the weight of systemic racism that pervades every aspect of American life, including health care and including health care in Louisiana.

SIMON: You believe that this decision has essentially already been handed down, and it was four years ago.

NORTHUP: Absolutely. It is on all fours with the case the Supreme Court decided against the state of Texas. And, in fact, the American Bar Association filed a brief in this Louisiana case making clear that the rule of law is on the line. And it was the first time that the American Bar Association has ever filed a brief in an abortion rights case, and they filed it on this principle of the rule of law.

SIMON: As I'm sure you've heard, it's a different court, though, than it was four years ago.

NORTHUP: The only thing that has changed from four years ago, indeed, is that there are two new justices on the Supreme Court. But it's important for the rule of law, for the integrity of court and, of course, for access to abortion for women that the court follow what it said just four years ago.

SIMON: I wonder, Miss Northup, did the two court decisions this week on LGBTQ employment rights and DACA signal that this current Supreme Court might issue rulings that surprise people who assume they'll rule in a certain way?

NORTHUP: Well, I certainly hope so. And it was certainly heartening to see the two rulings this week on the Title VII rights and on the DREAMers. Those were decisions that were groundbreaking in a way that this one is about an issue they've already decided. So we feel so strongly that this case is one in which the court needs to follow what it just did four years ago.

SIMON: Nancy Northup is president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Thanks so much for being with us.

NORTHUP: Thank you so much for covering the case. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.