More than 200 members of Congress told the Supreme Court that its landmark decisions on abortion, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, should be “reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled” in a brief they submitted to the court on Thursday.
Anti-abortion group Americans United for Life organized the amicus curiae brief (translated from latin to mean “friend of the court”) in support of a restrictive Louisiana abortion law that is currently under a temporary stay and slated to be considered by the Supreme Court this Spring: June Medical Services LLC v. Gee.
The 2014 Louisiana law in question would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform the procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a structurally similar Texas law in 2016. Before the court blocked it, the Texas law also required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 mile radiuses.
In evaluating the Texas law, the Supreme Court determined the barrier it created was an “undue burden” on the right to abortions secured by the 1973 and 1992 cases; a significant number of abortion providers were not within a 30-mile radius of hospitals they had admitting privileges to — potentially increasing workloads for doctors and wait times for women.
If the Supreme Court allows the Louisiana law to take effect, all but one abortion clinic in the state would close, CBS previously reported. Pro-choice advocates thus argue the Louisiana law is in blatant disregard of the “undue burden” test established by the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which says a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability” is unconstitutional.
Pro-choice advocates further argue that these legislators are ignoring public opinion. Fully 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most circumstances: the highest support has been in two decades, according to Pew Research Center. Notably, eight of the 13 GOP Senators who did not sign the brief are up for re-election in 2020.
“These anti-abortion politicians are making it very clear — they want the Supreme Court to effectively ban abortion, precedent be damned,” Samuel Lau, Planned Parenthood Votes’ Director of Federal Advocacy Media said in a statement. “To the members of Congress who signed on to this amicus brief: Brace yourselves for the consequences you will face at the ballot box in November.” Meanwhile, the National Abortion Rights Action League took time to call out Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski for being one of only two Democrats to sign the brief, calling him a “‘Democrat’ in name only” in a statement.
In contrast, the 39 senators and 168 House members who signed the brief — 97% of which are men — are arguing the undue burden test is a “vague and unworkable” standard, which “illustrates the unworkability of the ‘right to abortion’ found in Roe.”
In response to a question from TIME, Americans United for Life Government Affairs Counsel Katie Glenn said the 30-mile rule is meant to protect women in case they experience a medical crisis during an abortion. “Roe and the interests of abortion businesses are callously being used by opponents of health and safety laws to threaten a woman’s right to emergency transfer in the event of life-threatening medical complications,” Glenn said. “We believe every woman deserves the basic continuity of care that Louisiana-style laws provide,” she continued.
To be sure, pro-choice advocates argue women would also be at medical risk if they didn’t have access to legal abortions. In December, 197 mostly Democratic Members of Congress submitted a separate amicus brief arguing the Supreme Court should permanently block the Louisiana law. The act would “force patients to travel greater distances, wait longer to be treated, and potentially resort to unsafe abortion procedures,” they wrote.
TIME reached out to several GOP lawmakers about this potential safety outcome, but none responded to requests for comment.
The case will be the first major one on abortion the Supreme Court will hear since President Donald Trump’s nominated Justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were confirmed. Thursday’s amicus brief was just the latest juncture in what has been a contentious period for abortion politics. In 2019 alone, six states passed laws to ban abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Though most of those laws have been challenged, the recent efforts to restrict abortion in the U.S. have advocates worried.
“This case could open the floodgates for other states to pass similarly harmful restrictions with one goal in mind: to make abortion completely inaccessible for millions of Americans,” Rachel Sussman, National Director of State Policy and Advocacy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tells TIME in a statement.
Planned Parenthood says its advocacy and political organizations plan to invest at least $45 million in key battleground states ahead of 2020.
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