Louisiana Abortion Providers Challenge New Ultrasound and Malpractice Law
(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal challenge against two abortion restrictions recently passed by the Louisiana state legislature. One measure excludes doctors who perform abortion services from participating in a medical malpractice fund administered by the state even though that coverage is provided to all other medical professionals. The other measure amends the current requirement in Louisiana that a woman seeking an abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy receive an ultrasound. It requires women at all stages of pregnancy receive an ultrasound and a photograph of the ultrasound image, even if the woman is a rape or incest victim or diagnosed with a fetal abnormality.”Both of these measures seriously interfere with doctors’ ability to provide women the medical care that they expect and are legally entitled,” said Stephanie Toti, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The government cannot single out abortion providers and the women who seek their services simply because some politicians don’t approve. It’s completely unfair and more importantly, it violates the U.S. Constitution.”The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, argues that the medical malpractice provision treats abortion providers differently than other medical professionals and deprives them of the benefits afforded to healthcare providers who receive that coverage. Louisiana offers medical malpractice insurance to every other medical professional in the state, including nurses, midwives, and pharmacists. Benefits include evaluation of any medical malpractice claim by a “medical review panel” that determine whether the provider complied with the standards of care, and access to the coverage when there is no insurance available on the commercial market or is only offered at unaffordable rates. The provision that requires women to receive a photograph copy of her ultrasound image even when they refuse, the Center argues, will be detrimental to the patients’ emotional well-being and their relationship with their healthcare provider. Some women seek an abortion after discovering that they have severe fetal abnormalities or because they have been raped. For those women, insisting that they receive a “picture” of the fetus is cruel and likely to inflict emotional harm create distrust of the provider.The malpractice measure was part of House Bill 1453 and the ultrasound measure was a part of Senate Bill 528. The plaintiffs in the case are a group of Louisiana abortion providers located in Shreveport, Bossier City, Baton Rouge, Metairie, and New Orleans in the case. They are represented by Center for Reproductive Rights attorneys Stephanie Toti and Bonnie Scott Jones and New Orleans attorney William Rittenberg.