Weeks After March for Life, Supreme Court Will Hear Major Case on Louisiana Pro-Life Law

By Dr. Brent Boles Published on January 24, 2020

Before attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C., author and practicing OB/GYN Dr. Brent Boles gives his take on the life issues soon coming before the nation’s highest court.

In 2014, the state of Louisiana enacted a law which requires doctors performing abortions in their state to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This law is a response to the universal opposition to oversight and accountability that the abortion industry has always shown.

Medicine is perhaps the most highly regulated industry in America, with good reason. The safety and lives and health of each and every patient are at stake. No one opposes safeguards when they are having other kinds of surgery or procedures.

Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers must comply with a whole host of requirements geared toward ensuring the safest care possible. There are infection control standards, pharmaceutical standards, and even housekeeping standards all intended to make the provision of legitimate health care as safe as possible.

Ambulatory surgery centers also require the doctors performing surgical procedures in their facilities to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This is the specific issue the Supreme Court will consider on March 4 during oral arguments on this monumental case.


The logic of this policy is this: when a patient has an unexpected consequence or complication, the person most qualified to handle the complication is one skilled in performing the procedure that caused the complication. Physicians with integrity and concern for their patients will always want to be the one who provides or participates in the care of their patient when they have a complication.

Only a cold and callous physician will refuse to care for one of his/her patients when a problem is encountered. In order to be able to take a patient with a complication such as a hemorrhage to a hospital for definitive care, the physician must have privileges to admit and treat in that facility.

In my book Supremely Wrong: The Injustice of Abortion, I outline why the detailed process for obtaining admitting privileges at a hospital is a process that provides for patient safety and good care. Chapter Two is titled “Abortion Is Not Healthcare.”

The credentialing process required for physicians in a hospital is almost as complex as the process to be granted top secret clearance. It is a process by which the physician applies for privileges at a hospital and must complete an extensive application.

Their entire education must be documented and be verifiable. Their malpractice history, if any, must be carefully evaluated. Their maintenance of continuing education programs is inspected.

Physician Credentialing

Most hospitals require a physician to be board certified or at least be eligible to sit for the board examinations in their particular specialty and be making progress toward finishing that process. They must have good work references and character references. They must have a license to practice in the state in which they practice and they must have a Drug Enforcement Agency certification that they are qualified to prescribe controlled substances.

The physician’s experience performing the procedures which he or she wishes to perform is placed under scrutiny. Once a physician is properly credentialed and has been evaluated by a committee of fellow physicians at the particular process where privileges are sought, then privileges are granted if it is found that the physician is qualified to care for patients in a safe and competent manner.

This process is usually repeated every two years in a manner known as ‘recredentialing’ to ensure that the physician continues to practice in a safe and effective manner.

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The process for a physician to obtain privileges at an ambulatory surgery center is almost as detailed — with one addition: most surgery centers will require the physician to have been credentialed at and have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital facility so that the physician can transfer a patient who has had a complication during a procedure to a hospital for more definitive care and for service which will not be available in free-standing surgery centers.

Access to a blood bank for patients with greater than expected blood loss is one such need.

Admitting Privileges

Some states have passed laws which require an abortionist to have hospital admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and those laws have been challenged. My home state of Tennessee currently has a law on the books which requires an abortionist to have admitting privileges at a hospital within the county in which the abortion is being performed or an adjacent county.

Why is this important? Because complications do occur during and after abortions. With any surgical procedure, when a complication occurs, the doctor most qualified to handle the complication will be the doctor who is most familiar with the procedure itself. Any doctor with an ounce of integrity will want to be able to provide the higher level of care needed when a patient experiences a complication.

An abortionist whose patient experiences a complication can only provide that higher level of care when they can transfer the patient to a local hospital and meet them there and provide the care for the complication. Reasonable people would think that this is simply a matter of common sense, but the abortion industry opposes such requirements and claims that it places an undue burden on the woman in her quest for an abortion.

In actuality, it places a burden upon the abortionist that the abortionist finds unacceptable — the burden of being able to provide quality care.

The Abortion Industry

The Court has found that many regulations that are acceptable when applied to the legitimate medical community are suddenly overly burdensome when applied to abortion. They reference the ‘undue burden’ standard from Casey v. Planned Parenthood and frequently strike down these laws.

What needs to be seen is that while the pro-life community would obviously prefer to overturn Roe, laws like this one are designed to protect the women who are seeking legal abortions. No field of medicine has ever been able to escape compliance with federal, state, and local laws by claiming that it was too difficult or expensive to comply.

The abortion industry is desperate to have abortion on demand considered to be legitimate healthcare. If so, then they should be more willing to be transparent and to yield to the same standards and regulations to which all legitimate medicine must yield.

Refusal to do so simply confirms what so many of us in the pro-life community know and have been saying for many years. Roe didn’t make abortion safer. It just brought the back alley into the realm of brick and mortar.


Dr. Brent Boles has been practicing medicine for two decades as an OB/GYN in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He currently serves as medical director at Portico, a local pregnancy help center. This article excerpts from his new book Supremely Wrong.

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