Abortion ruling felt like personal triumph for onetime patient now an OB-GYN

"It's important to take a moment and realize that it's finally a win for Louisiana women," said an OB-GYN who had to navigate the state's abortion restrictions while she was in medical school.
Images: People gather for an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington on March 4, 2020.
People gather for an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington on March 4.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images file

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By Chloe Atkins

When one OB-GYN heard news of the Supreme Court's decision Monday on Louisiana's controversial abortion law, she felt as though it was a personal triumph.

"I know how many restrictions already exist in Louisiana and how difficult it was for me to obtain an abortion," said JC, 31, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

She woke up to text messages and emails celebrating the ruling, which she said will preserve access in the state.

"It's important to take a moment and realize that it's finally a win for Louisiana women," she said.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices Monday in a 5-4 decision striking down the Louisiana law, which required that a doctor who provides abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

JC, who provides abortion services in Washington state, received abortion care in Louisiana seven years ago when she was a first-year medical student. After navigating access in the state, JC said, she is relieved that pregnant women in Louisiana have one less barrier to worry about when seeking care.

"For every woman, an abortion is an extremely personal decision," she said. "It should be something that is left up to the woman and her doctor and should not be legislated by people who have no idea what she's going through."

Abortion rights backers, who argued that the law reduces access without benefiting patients' health or safety, praised the ruling.

"This is a victory for the people of Louisiana and the rule of law, but this case never should have gotten this far," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

A plaintiff in the case, Kathaleen Pittman, clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group for Women, said excitement was in the air at the clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana.

"The law struck down today is just one in a sea of others that are intended to prevent us from serving our patients," Pittman said.

Steffani Bangel, executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, said: "As we celebrate today's Supreme Court decision, do not mistake our celebration for acceptance of the status quo. Because the truth is: Anti-abortion politicians have eroded the legal right to abortion for decades, and while the right remains, access to abortion is scarcer than ever."

Supporters of the law were still defending the admitting privileges requirement.

"The Supreme Court has issued a tragic decision that continues its practice of putting the interests of for-profit abortion businesses ahead of the health and safety of women," said state Sen. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat who was the author of the law when she was in the state House.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said in a statement, "It is deeply disappointing that the Chief Justice continues a pattern of inconsistent and groundless decisions."

While the ruling is a win for abortion rights advocates, some say the fight for reproductive access isn't over.

Pearl Ricks, executive director of the Reproductive Justice Action Collective, said multiple abortion restrictions should be repealed in Louisiana.

"There are plenty of things that can be done to make abortion far more accessible in Black and low-income communities and for people who are undocumented," Ricks said. "I refuse to spend today pretending like those barriers don't exist."

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health and Whole Woman's Health Alliance, agreed and said she hopes states soon follow the lead of Virginia, which is set to roll back many longstanding abortion laws Wednesday.

Miller added, "I was really proud that the work my staff and our clinics did in Texas could bring this kind of relief to people right next door in Louisiana."