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Religious, legal and medical groups voice opposition to Louisiana abortion law to Supreme Court

Supreme Court to hear abortion case in March
Supreme Court to hear pivotal abortion case in March 03:09

Just under 30 amicus briefs were filed for June Medical Services v. Gee on Monday, urging the Supreme Court to protect access to abortion and strike down a Louisiana law that could effectively eliminate abortion in the state. The "friend of the court" briefs represented about 200 organizations and more than 700 individuals.

Though many of the briefs came from pro-abortion rights advocates like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, a handful came from non-partisan groups including the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Medical groups argued that the law in question - which requires doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital - is medically unnecessary, while legal scholars wrote that there is already precedent that covers the issue: the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down a similar law out of Texas.

Religious groups, representing Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, also submitted amicus briefs Monday, arguing that "religious traditions recognize women's moral right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy."

"This diverse and unprecedented array of expert voices, individual women, and advocates paints a compelling portrait of the immense stakes in this case," said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "It's clear that support for abortion access and the rule of law spans all political parties, all professions, and all walks of life."

In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 45 amicus briefs were filed in opposition to Texas's admitting privilege law. Amicus briefs supporting Louisiana's law are due on January 2.

"It is hypocritical for abortion providers and their supporters to claim the lawsuit is helping women when its end goal is to decrease the standard of care women receive from Louisiana abortion providers who have a long documented history of medical malpractice, disciplinary actions, and violations of health and safety standards," said Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill in an email to CBS News on Tuesday.

Last week, the Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments for June Medical Services v. Gee on March 4, 2020, devoting an entire day to it.  At the center of the case is Act 620, Louisiana's "Unsafe Abortion Protection Act," a 2014 state law not currently in effect. Similar to the Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, Louisiana's law requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away. If the law is allowed to be implemented, all of Louisiana's abortion clinics would close, as first reported last month by CBS News.

June Medical Services v. Gee is the first abortion-related case to be heard by the Supreme Court since the appointments of conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the law firm representing June Medical, filed its opening brief, the first of four to be filed ahead of oral arguments. CRR outlined its argument against Act 620, identifying two reasons why it believes the regulation should be struck down by the high court. First, CRR argued that since the Supreme Court struck down the same type of restriction in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, Louisiana's restriction should also be deemed unconstitutional. Second, the law in question "is unconstitutional even assuming the burdens here are less than in Whole Woman's Health," according to the brief.

Previous Supreme Court precedent says abortion restrictions cannot create an "undue burden" for women seeking the procedure.

Louisiana's opening brief is due December 26.

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