What You Need to Know About This Week’s Significant Abortion Case at the Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear their first abortion-related case in years. Dr. Brent Boles, a practicing pro-life OB/GYN, presents what’s at stake.

By Dr. Brent Boles Published on March 2, 2020

This Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of June Medical Services, LLC, v. Russo from the state of Louisiana. In 2014, Louisiana enacted a law known as Act 620, which would have placed some minimal requirements upon the physicians who perform abortions in the state of Louisiana.

The law requires any physician performing abortions there to either be enrolled in or have completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology or in family practice. It also requires they have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.

As is usual, the abortion industry immediately challenged the law, and a federal District Court found the law to be unconstitutional. The state appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which reversed the decision. The abortion industry then appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The Pro-Life Law Being Challenged

At the time Act 620 was enacted, only six physicians in all of Louisiana performed abortions. These six physicians were able to meet the demand for abortion services in the entire state. Only one of the six had admitting privileges at a hospital within the required distance from their abortion clinic locations.

After the law was enacted, only one of the remaining five even attempted to apply for and obtain privileges. The four physicians who did not apply for privileges either had so little concern for the law and for their patients that it was not worth their time to bother, or they were confident the law would be stricken down.

Or, they knew that they would be unable to obtain those privileges and did not want to experience the embarrassment which would have resulted from being denied privileges. 

Why does this mandate on those providing abortion services matter? Multiple reasons make it important for them to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital facility.

False Claims of the Abortion Industry

The abortion industry repeatedly claims that abortion has a very low complication rate. Let us assume that the complication rate requiring additional care is one percent. That means that somewhere around 10,000 patients annually would experience a complication that requires a higher level of care than an abortion clinic can provide. 

If an abortionist does not have admitting privileges at a facility in which he or she can provide that higher level of care, then the care of the complication falls to people who are not experienced in the provision of abortion services.

There is another reason for us to agree that admitting privileges are important. The process for obtaining them ensures that the doctors have been vetted and shown to be competent and capable individuals with medical licenses that are in good standing, have no problematic malpractice history, and are qualified to do what they are doing.

It is a safety issue. And it is a process to which all legitimate medical professionals in America who do procedures on patients must submit.

Why Admitting Privileges Matter

In my book, Supremely Wrong: The Injustice of Abortion, I outline the process through which all legitimate medical professionals in America must go if they wish to be able to admit patients to hospitals.

The credentialing process required for physicians in a hospital is almost as complex as the process to be granted top secret clearance. 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.

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 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 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 place where privileges are sought, privileges are granted if it’s found the physician is qualified to care for patients in a safe and competent manner.

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

Thus, the physician can transfer a patient who has had a complication during a procedure to a hospital for more definitive care 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.

Doctors Turn Down Grisly Profession

When an abortionist does not have admitting privileges, it is either because he or she has decided not to obtain admitting privileges or he or she is unable to obtain them because of a lack of competence or a bad history of practice.

If a health care provider cares so little for his or her patients that he or she is willing to abandon the patient with the complication to the care of someone with no experience in caring for the abortion client, then why are we to believe that they truly care for the women who seek their services? 

And if they are unqualified and/or incompetent and dangerous in some way, what other means is there to discover this than to have them vetted by an impartial entity, like a neighboring hospital?

There is another reality to consider. In a brief filed with the Court in this week’s case, the Christian Legal Society and other groups has shown the issue in Louisiana is not in finding enough physicians who are qualified to obtain admitting privileges and then perform abortions. The problem is finding qualified physicians willing to do abortions.

At this time, six physicians are meeting the demand for abortion services in all of Louisiana. Also, more than 400 physicians within the state meet the criteria outlined in Act 620. All the abortion industry needs to do is recruit 1.5 percent of those physicians — yet they are unable to do so.

Distasteful Practice

That inability has much more to do with the distasteful nature of an abortion practice than it does with any state law. The ‘undue burden’ is placed on the abortion industry by the nature of abortion itself, and not by any law or regulation.

In the pro-life community, our desire is to see abortion become unthinkable and unavailable. But because we in the pro-life community love both the woman and her unborn child, we must strive to see laws like this one enacted and defended … for as long as we must continue to stand in the long shadow of Roe v. Wade.



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. His new book Supremely Wrong is now available.

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