Federal judge strikes down Louisiana abortion law

Federal judge strikes down Louisiana abortion law
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A federal judge released a ruling Tuesday putting a stop on a Louisiana law that threatened to shutter four of state's five abortion clinics.

The 2014 law requires abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. In his opinion, District Judge John deGravelles of Baton Rouge said if the law were put into effect, it would "violate the constitutional right of Louisiana women to abortion."

Supporters of the law said it is meant to protect women's health by ensuring they have access to medical care in case of an emergency during or directly following abortion procedures. Opponents said the measure would essentially make it impossible for women to get abortions.

"This law is a sham, it was passed under the guise of advancing women's health, but the only reason this law was passed and Gov. Jindal signed it was to stop women from getting abortions, to cut off their access," said Ilene Jaroslaw, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and who represented the clinicians in the court proceedings.

The law would leave only one operable clinic statewide. That clinic is located in New Orleans. As a result, Jaroslaw and her fellow attorneys argued that the law would hurt – not help – women.

"If you have fewer safe providers of abortion in a state, then what you're going to have is women resorting to unsafe, illegal providers or self-abortion or other things that can put their health at risk," she said.

That is something the judge agreed with, writing in his opinion that the law would cause women to "face irreparable harms from the burdens associated with increase travel distances in reaching an abortion clinic with sufficient capacity to perform their abortions."

He also wrote the law could have the effect of creating "unreasonable and dangerous delays in scheduling abortion procedures."

Governor John Bel Edwards' team released a statement Tuesday, saying the Attorney General will now take on the case for the state. During the Jindal administration, the case was handled by private lawyers contracted by DHH.

AG Jeff Landry said he plans to appeal the federal judge's ruling.

"We are obviously disappointed by the judge's ruling," Landry said. "As Attorney General, I am committed to enforcing our state's pro-life and pro-woman laws. My office and I will continue to do all we legally can to protect the unborn, their mothers, and all Louisiana women."

DHH Secretary Rebekah Gee issued a statement Wednesday regarding the ruling:

"The Department and I will continue to work with Attorney General Jeff Landry as he takes over this case. Our agency will follow the Governor's directives in all respects. As a Medical Doctor, Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, I have delivered more than 800 babies in my career, and my focus has been and will continue to be ensuring good birth outcomes for all pregnant women."

As part of his ruling, deGravelles granted an injunction requested by the physicians and clinics - including Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport and Bossier City Medical Suite - that will allow them to continue to operate in the meantime in spite of the law's restrictions.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday to decide on steps to make the preliminary injunction permanent.

The president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive rights released a statement calling Tuesday's ruling a "victory:"

"[It] guarantees Louisiana women will continue to have access to critical health care services in the face of relentless political attacks on their health and rights," said Nancy Northup.

The judge's full decision can be read below:

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