Louisiana judge allows abortion clinics to operate until lawsuit is resolved
BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE/AP) - Abortion clinics in Louisiana can continue operating until a lawsuit challenging the state’s near-total ban on abortions is resolved, a state judge ruled Thursday.
The order from state district judge Donald Johnson in Baton Rouge is the latest development amid a flurry of court challenges to state “trigger” laws that were crafted in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights, which it did on June 24.
For weeks, access to abortion has been flickering in Louisiana where there are three clinics. A statewide abortion ban has taken effect twice and been blocked twice since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. Johnson had entered a temporary hold on enforcement July 11, pending arguments in the case that were heard Monday.
Johnson’s new ruling allows clinics to continue providing abortion procedures while a lawsuit filed by a north Louisiana abortion clinic and others continues.
Attorney General Jeff Landry is expected to appeal the decision.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit don’t deny that the state can now ban abortion as a result of the Supreme Court ruling. Instead, they contend that Louisiana now has multiple, conflicting trigger mechanisms in the law. They also argue that state law is unclear on whether it bans an abortion prior to a fertilized egg implanting in the uterus.
And while the law provides an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies in cases of fetuses with fatal abnormalities, the plaintiffs noted it gives no definition of the term and that state health officials have not yet provided a list of conditions that would qualify as medically futile.
In Louisiana, there is little question that an abortion ban will eventually be in effect in the state where the Legislature has long been dominated by abortion opponents. But the court case has resulted in more time for the state’s three abortion clinics — in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans — to stay open.
Landry said Monday, prior to the ruling, that he anticipates the case will ultimately end up before the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The state’s abortion ban has no exceptions for rape or incest, though it does have an exception to save the life of a pregnant woman.
Louisiana’s trigger law carries criminal penalties of up to 15 years for abortion providers, though pregnant women can’t be prosecuted.
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