(PRESS RELEASE) Late today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal challenge to Louisiana’s recently enacted law granting the state Department of Health and Hospitals expanded powers to suspend and revoke licenses of abortion facilities. The lawsuit also challenges the health department’s new practice of denying abortion facilities the opportunity to correct alleged deficiencies before the department moves to revoke or suspend the facility’ s license. The new law and the “zero tolerance policy” deprive abortion facilities of many of the basic due process protections given to the other licensed healthcare facilities in the state. Under the measures, the department may now take action to suspend or revoke an abortion facility’s license based on a single violation of any state or federal law or regulation, regardless of whether the department has given the facility notice of the alleged violation, and regardless of whether the facility has changed its practices to correct the alleged violation. “It is one thing to pass neutral and reasonable health regulations, it is another thing to single out abortion facilities from other licensed medical facilities and take away the safeguards put in place to protect them from unreasonable or arbitrary government action,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, deputy director of the U.S. Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This law leaves abortion facilities vulnerable to arbitrary and inconsistent treatment by the health department and ultimately, harms women’s health instead of protecting it.”
The Center argues that the law is unconstitutional because it is vague and encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Earlier this month, the health department immediately suspended the license of Shreveport’s Hope Medical Group for Women based on the new statute and zero tolerance policy. This action was taken despite the fact that the facility had promptly corrected most of the alleged deficiencies, and the remaining deficiencies involved record-keeping issues that Hope Medical was never given the opportunity to correct. The Center filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs include five medical facilities and one doctor who provide abortion in Louisiana. They are represented by Center for Reproductive Rights attorneys, New Orleans attorney Bill Rittenberg and law firm Morrison &, Foerster.