It’s anyone’s guess as to how the Supreme Court justices will decide the current case regarding abortion. The media’s reaction, on the other hand, is an easy prediction.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision shortly on June Medical Services v. Russo. But as each day passes, many in the media, from The New York Times to The Cut, appear more worried that the ruling will block abortion access. The case challenges a 2014 Louisiana law that requires abortionists to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals so that patients can be easily transferred for emergency care.
Because admitting privileges can be difficult to obtain, abortion supporters argue that this could lead to the closing of abortion clinics not only in Lousiana, but also nationwide. They say that it would place an undue burden on women, when abortion is already a “safe procedure.” Furthermore, they say, this case resembles another case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the court already sided against admitting privileges.
But that’s not the whole story.
The pro-life movement stresses the importance of pregnant women’s safety and health. They also point out that abortion providers shouldn’t have “third-party standing,” or the ability to represent patients in a case where their interests and women’s interests might conflict. They also argue that Louisiana physicians at ambulatory surgical centers must obtain the same admitting privileges – and that abortion providers aren’t being singled out here.
“For those who say, ‘You’re limiting the ability to access abortion,’” she told the National Catholic Register in January, “I would tell them it doesn’t lessen access to an abortion, it lessens access to unsafe abortion, and unsafe, unregulated abortions are not constitutional.”
For their part, many in the media largely gave voice to the concerns of abortion supporters.
During an NPR interview, Nancy Northup, the CEO and president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, commented that “this is actually just an attempt to close the clinics in Louisiana with no benefit for women” on June 20.
Host Scott Simon simply followed up by asking, “And would the closure of clinics in Louisiana particularly affect women of color?”
The following day, The New York Times published an opinion piece with the headline reading, “What if the Supreme Court Rules on Abortion and the Country Shrugs?”
“We’re worn down,” wrote Lauren Kelley, a member of the editorial board. “By the pandemic, by racist police violence, by so much else that’s roiled 2020 — but also by years and years of abortion battles just like this one.”
Still, she warned, the “sweeping changes this case could usher in make it all the more depressing that the looming ruling has gotten relatively little attention.”
She called the “Worst-case scenario” a “real possibility” – where abortion clinics may “no longer be able to bring lawsuits on behalf of their patients” in addition to shuttering clinics nationwide.
Another headline, for The Cut, asked, “Will the Supreme Court Strike a Devastating Blow to Abortion Rights?”
Writer Caitlin Moscatello stressed on June 17 that the decision “will signal to state lawmakers how far they can go in restricting abortion access.”
“How the Court comes down on the case could also serve as an indicator of its willingness to dial back reproductive rights going forward,” she worried.
Likewise, a New York Magazine headline asked, “Is the Constitutional Right to Choose Abortion Doomed?” on June 23.
Political columnist Ed Kilgore stressed that, “the case to wait for with bated breath is June Medical Services LLC v. Russo,” which he called perhaps the “most significant decision on abortion law to come down since the Court reaffirmed the right to choose in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.”
Even “if the Court does not hasten the formal demise of the right to choose,” he wrote, “if it gives the green light to Louisiana and Texas and other Republican-controlled states to devise the most pernicious and insincere TRAP [Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers] laws imaginable, it will make abortion rights largely theoretical for many women by making the operation of clinics impractical.”
NBC News promised a one-sided story with its headline, “'Clinics will be forced to close': Abortion rights backers fearful of upcoming Supreme Court ruling” on June 7.
“When clinics close, pregnant people face significant hurdles, ranging from additional costs, to longer travel and delayed care,” writer Chloe Atkins urged.
More recently, on June 21, ABC News staff shared the story of a Louisiana woman involved with the case, and reported on her difficulties in obtaining an abortion for herself.
For Salon, on June 18, politics writer Amanda Marcotte summarized the case as looking at “whether states can ban abortion through the backdoor method of burying clinics in medically unnecessary regulations that force them out of business.”
But, of course, that’s only one side of the story.