Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

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Clinics will remain open pending legal challenge
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(PRESS RELEASE) A Louisiana state law specifically designed to shutter abortion clinics across the state will not be enforced on September 1, according to a federal district court ruling issued late this evening.

Louisiana health care providers filed a suit in federal district court in Baton Rouge last week seeking an immediate injunction against House Bill 388, a measure signed into law that forces any doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. With today’s decision, physicians providing abortion services will not be forced to comply with the law if they are in the process of applying for hospital admitting privileges.

Admitting privileges requirements are designed by anti-choice politicians to devastate women’s access to abortion services—with numerous clinics already been forced to closed in Texas, and abortion providers in Mississippi and Alabama hanging on by the thread of a court order. Yet, admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications. Furthermore, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases toward abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights. Politicians cannot be given free rein to lie about their motives without recourse, and expect women and their families to pay the consequences.

“As the flimsy façade of these laws grows thinner by the day, we continue to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live.”

Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias of Morrison &, Foerster, and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC represent Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic, and Bossier City Medical Suite in this challenge. If the law were enforced, at least three of the state’s five clinics would have been forced to stop providing abortion services or close altogether, leaving thousands of women—especially those in the central part of the state—hundreds of miles from a safe and legal abortion provider.

With this law, Louisiana joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services. Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open. A similar law in Alabama was found unconstitutional earlier this month and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked, nevertheless, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a similar measure into law earlier this summer.

Major medical groups oppose laws like Louisiana’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services. In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health in Texas,” doing “nothing to protect the health of women.”

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Louisiana from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.