Pro-lifers are rightly disappointed by today’s Supreme Court ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo. The narrow 5-4 decision struck down a set of popular common-sense health and safety regulations of abortion facilities that were enacted by the Louisiana state legislature. This marks the second time in four years that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against abortion facility health standards that protect women. In 2016 in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court struck down another set of protections that were enacted in Texas. However, since that time, Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. As such, pro-lifers were hoping that their appointments would result in a durable five-vote majority that would uphold incremental pro-life laws. However, today’s ruling shows that is not the case.
Indeed, the Court’s decision to double down on the status quo of Hellerstedt is certainly a setback. In light of this, it is all the more important for pro-lifers to steel their resolve to do as much as we can to save lives moving forward – and there are still many ways to do that, including by challenging Roe v. Wade more directly, which this particular case was not designed to do.
Recent history shows that persistence has paid off for the pro-life movement. In the past, when pro-life laws have been struck down by the courts, pro-lifers have successfully appealed these decisions. In other cases, revised laws have been upheld. For instance, the federal Hyde Amendment was struck down by lower courts before it was upheld by the Supreme Court in Harris v. McRae in 1980. On multiple occasions during the 1970s, the Supreme Court struck down pro-life parental involvement laws before upholding such laws in the 1980s and 1990s. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state partial-birth abortion ban in Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000, before upholding a revised partial-birth abortion ban in Gonzalez v. Carhart in 2007. As such, a revised set of standards may well be upheld in the future.
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