WASHINGTON — A Louisiana law requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges adjudicated before the Supreme Court Wednesday has pro-life leaders noting an important moment in the history of abortion jurisprudence.
Under a cloudless blue sky and 60-degree temperatures, the atmosphere was palpably tense on the steps in front of the nation's highest court and demonstrators on both sides of the issue rallied. Abortion clinic escorts who were there to protest attempted to disrupt CP's interviews multiple times as protesters chanted in favor of abortion nearby.
Oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo were heard inside the historic building; the law being contested in the matter was the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which was authored in 2014 by then-state representative Katrina Jackson, who is now a state senator and was present Wednesday to defend her law at the high court.
The case is of particular importance to longtime pro-life advocates in that this is the first abortion-related matter heard in years, and is especially significant because both of President Trump's appointees to the bench, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, will consider it. Supreme Court justices became a pressing campaign issue during the 2016 election cycle in large part because of the future of abortion jurisprudence as many hope for the eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling in 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide.
"Everyone is very interested to see how they rule," said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, in an interview with The Christian Post, stressing that the decision should be supported across the board because the issue is not contesting the legality of abortion but whether or not abortion facilities should be held to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.
Jackson's legislation required that abortion clinics in the state have admitting privileges to local hospitals as is required of other medical outfits where surgeries are performed. The law was reportedly created in part because of horror stories that emerged in the state where patients were treated in filthy conditions and basic standards of medical care were not upheld.
"We know that it's all going to come down to the pro-life movement for the 2020 election, that we are very close to achieving our phase 1 goal of reversing Roe, sending the decision back to the states where we will then fight state by state to make abortion illegal as well as unthinkable. And we can't just fight to make it unthinkable. We also have to make it illegal because as far as abortion remains legal some people will think it's OK to do. It's a both/and type of situation," she added, commenting on the current political dynamics.
"Those who advocate for the violence of abortion are terrified that Roe is going to fall, that abortion will be made illegal in many states across the country and that's why they're amped up, why they're acting the way they act," she said.
The erratic antics are evidence that the tension is only going to increase, she maintained.
"Christians especially need to be prepared for this, that this is going to be something that as we get closer and closer to reversing Roe, those who advocate for abortion are going to become more incensed because they've bought into that lie that they need abortion in order to be free, that women need to have abortion to have autonomy in their lives, which we know is patently false. Abortion is always and has always been the opposite of empowerment and the opposite of feminism," Hawkins said.
The tensions were high as the current composition of the court — comprised of five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats — was not lost on Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
“I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said before cheering abortion rights supporters at the rally, remarks some interpreted as a threat.
Schumer's words subsequently received a rebuke from Chief Justice Roberts, who called the New York senator's comments "inappropriate" and "dangerous."
One abortion rights supporter held a sign that read: "Thank God for Abortion." Another read: "Hey Kavanaugh, keep your religion out of my health care. And yea, we still believe Dr. Blasey Ford.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, told CP that "it's heartbreaking for those of us who are pro-life because, of course, the bottom line of the pro-life movement is love and respecting the inherent dignity of the human person, and you just see so much pain and anger today and you want to take folks from the other side and meet with them one-on-one and talk to them about truth and freedom and healing and hope and all of these things."
She believes that much of the hostility from the abortion rights supporters present Wednesday was because the pro-life movement has made many strides in recent years.
"We're winning. Abortion clinics are shutting down. Pregnancy care centers are opening. The abortion rate is on a decline, it's lower than it has ever been since Roe v. Wade. Thankfully, we're seeing so many good and positive things happen," she said.
Much work remains in light of hundreds of thousands of abortions still taking place annually but the pro-life movement continues to unify to create a culture of life, she added.
"We have a president that supports life and has leaned into this more than any president ever in history and we are so delighted."
Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs for the pro-life political action group the Susan B. Anthony List, noted the significance of who was contending for life inside the court. Jackson is an African-American female and a Democrat.
"It just amazes me that in this time when the national party has gone so extreme on abortion that they even embrace infanticide that we have a beautiful woman in Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Louisiana, right there in that Supreme Court building today where her law is being looked at," Musgrave said in a CP interview.
"I just think it's a gift from God, and I think it's just a beautiful thing to really see the truth of all this," she added, noting the disproportionate rates of abortion among African Americans.
Jackson spoke from the stage at the March for Life both earlier this year and last year.
"I think today is so critical because if you are logical, if you are intellectually honest, you will know that when a woman goes into a facility to have that [abortion] procedure, regardless of how you feel, whether you're pro-life or pro-abortion, you know that she deserves health and safety standards to be met in that facility," Musgrave said.
"And the other side is trying very hard to say they are pro-woman. No, we in the pro-life movement are pro-life and we are pro-woman."
In 2016, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law similar to Louisiana's that required abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. A decision on the constitutionality of Louisiana's law is expected by the end of June.