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Social Scientists File Amicus Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Find Admitting Privileges Unconstitutional

Scientific Research Brief Shows How Louisiana’s Admitting Privileges Law Will Harm Women’s Health

AUSTIN, Texas—Today, leading social scientists filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to reject Louisiana’s law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals. The law will be reviewed in the Supreme Court case June Medical Services v. Gee, which will be heard on March 4, 2020. The brief points to the body of scientific evidence on these restrictions showing that admitting privileges are medically unnecessary and that laws that create barriers to abortion services harm, rather than improve, women’s health.

The researchers who led the brief are based at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco; and the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) at The University of Texas at Austin. The brief describes the extensive research on the safety of abortion, the harms of denying people a wanted abortion, and the impacts of the law’s requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges. The brief has been signed by more than 50 social scientists based at research universities and institutions throughout the U.S.

The brief shows that admitting privileges laws are medically unjustified and will force clinics to close. If this law is upheld  and clinics close, then the distance Louisiana women need to travel would dramatically increase. Currently, 1% of Louisiana women of reproductive age live more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion facility. If the law goes into effect, this would increase to up to 53%.

“Abortion is incredibly safe. The admitting privileges law will increase the considerable barriers to obtaining an abortion that Louisiana women already face, and thus harm women’s health. We urge the Supreme Court to reject this law given that the research shows it will hurt the health of Louisiana residents,” says Dr. Sarah C.M. Roberts, Associate Professor and researcher at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco. 

Louisiana’s admitting privileges law is identical to a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

“In Texas, we have already seen the impact of laws requiring admitting privileges,” said Dr. Kari White, principal investigator of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) and Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. “Our research shows that clinic closures following enforcement of the law created more barriers to abortion in Texas, which led to unnecessary delays for some women and prevented others from getting care. The Supreme Court should consider the volume of evidence, as it did when it decided Texas’ law was unconstitutional.

The ruling in this case could determine what access, if any, people would have to abortion care not only in Louisiana, but also across the country. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on June Medical Services v. Gee by June 2020. In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruled admitting privileges are unconstitutional based on evidence that admitting privileges are medically unnecessary and impose an undue burden on people seeking abortion services. 

To read the full brief, click here. To interview the social scientists, or learn more about ANSIRH and TxPEP, please contact Kelci Hobson at kelci.hobson@berlinrosen.com, 646-200-5332; Laura Kurtzman at laura.kurtzman@ucsf.edu, 415-317-3760; or Laura Dixon at ldixon@prc.utexas.edu, 512-788-2653.


The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) is a collaborative group of investigators based at The University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center conducting methodologically principled research to evaluate the impact of reproductive health policies and programs in the state of Texas.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) is a collaborative research group at UCSF conducting innovative, rigorous, multidisciplinary research on complex issues related to people’s sexual and reproductive lives.

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