Reform groups mobilize for NOLA rally as court hears abortion rights case

Updated March 3 after change of venue was announced.

As the United States Supreme Court hears a major reproductive rights case coming from Louisiana this week, a coalition of groups including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Women of Reform Judaism is coordinating rallies in Washington and New Orleans on March 4.

The New Orleans rally will be at 8 a.m. Originally scheduled for Lafayette Square Park, it has been moved to Propeller at 4035 Washington Avenue, due to impending weather threats. Local speakers include medical providers and abortion storytellers. There will also be a livestream of the Washington rally taking place at the same time in front of the Supreme Court.

Jennifer Daley, a member of Gates of Prayer in Metairie and Southwest president of the Women of Reform Judaism, will speak at the New Orleans rally. Rabbi Lexi Erdheim of Gates of Prayer will be one of the four voices from the faith community speaking at the Washington rally.

The RAC and WRJ are organizing Reform Jews who want to attend either of the rallies.

Ally Karpel, the WRJ-RAC reproductive health and rights campaign associate, said the Louisiana law is nearly identical to a law from her native Texas that was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 ruling on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt three years ago, but that was before Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court.

June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which the Supreme Court will hear on March 4, challenges the law that requires doctors providing abortion services to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles. Major medical groups like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these laws as medically unnecessary, but legislatures are using them as ways to restrict access to abortion.

“Hospitals can refuse admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortion care for any reason, including ideological opposition, fear of backlash, or because their patients rarely ever need to be admitted,” Karpel said. She said if the law is upheld, all but one abortion clinic in Louisiana will be forced to shut down, creating “substantial logistical and financial barriers for Louisianans seeking abortion care, as many would be forced to drive long distances, fly to another state, stay overnight in hotels, take off school or work, find childcare.”

Karpel noted that “the precedent set in Whole Women’s Health clearly requires the Court to again strike down the restrictive law in question,” but states continue to send test cases in an effort to chip away at the Roe v. Wade ruling that struck down barriers to abortion in numerous states. “If the Court allows this blatantly unconstitutional law to stand, the justices would be giving the green light to any state looking to further erode abortion access,” she said.