“A lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society.” Alexandra Thompson quoted fellow Howard University alum, Charles Hamilton Houston, to describe what motivates her work as a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and her part in the recent June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo case at the Supreme Court. She spoke at a virtual BC Law event on September 24 hosted by the American Constitution Society and the Women’s Law Center.
In June Medical, the Court held that a state law in Louisiana requiring abortion clinic doctors to have hospital-admission privileges was unconstitutional. This 5-4 victory in favor of the abortion providers was considered a victory for reproductive rights, and affirmed the Court’s holding in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt regarding a very similar state law in Texas. As Thompson pointed out, this was the last case argued in person before the pandemic, as well as the last case argued in person before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing.
Louisiana currently has three abortion clinics, making it very challenging to seek an abortion, and the admitting privileges law would have made this health care even more difficult to access. While June Medical did not expand access, it will remain the same for people in Louisiana. In regards to the future of reproductive rights in the context of the uncertainty of the Supreme Court right now, Thompson shared her fears of trigger bans; if the federal right to have an abortion falls, states will have bans that might quickly go into effect. She highlighted an interactive tool from the Center for Reproductive Rights, called What if Roe Fell, that shows the potential effects of Roe v. Wade being overturned in each state.
In addition to speaking about the importance of June Medical, Thompson shared with students how her career led her to working on this Supreme Court case. While in law school, she wrote amicus briefs and upon graduation started her career in private practice and did some pro bono work involving immigration cases related to bodily autonomy, spurring her desire to pursue work related to reproductive rights and freedom. Thompson joined the team working on June Medical after certiorari had been granted, helping counsel prepare for oral arguments and arguing before the Supreme Court.