Third-Party Standing and Abortion Providers: The Hidden Dangers of June Medical Services

Nassirinia, Elika | April 17, 2021

Standing is a long held, judicially-created doctrine intended to establish the proper role of courts by identifying who may bring a case in federal court. While standing usually requires that a party asserts his or her own rights, the Supreme Court has created certain exceptions that allow litigants to bring suit on behalf of third parties when they suffer a concrete injury, they have a “close relation” to the third party, and there are obstacles to the third party’s ability to protect his or her own interests. June Medical Services, heard by the Supreme Court on June 29, 2020, involves the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law which requires abortion providers in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the providers perform abortions. This law decreased the number of abortion clinics in Louisiana from six to three. In addition to the admitting privileges issue in the case, Louisiana challenged the entitlement of the plaintiff-providers to third-party standing in bringing suit, arguing that abortion providers do not meet the requirements of third-party standing. Louisiana’s arguments pose a grave danger to reproductive rights across the country, as the abolishment of third-party standing for abortion providers would severely restrict the number of cases brought forth challenging abortion restrictions. Louisiana’s arguments ignore a long line of precedent that recognizes third-party standing of abortion providers challenging health and safety regulations, as well as the well-documented dangers of TRAP laws to women’s health. In addition, Louisiana’s rationale rests on inaccurate assumptions about the dynamic between abortion providers and their patients, and disregards the very real and dangerous hindrance in the path of women seeking to file lawsuits on their own behalf in cases involving abortion restrictions.