Friday August 13, 2010

Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Ultrasound Law

By Peter J. Smith

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, August 13, 2010 ( – A U.S. District judge has blocked Louisiana’s “Ultrasound before Abortion Act” from going into effect until a legal challenge to the law’s constitutionality can be resolved in his court.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday until a hearing in Baton Rouge on August 24. The law was scheduled to take effect on Sunday.

The law requires abortionists to perform an ultrasound on a woman at least two hours before she undergoes the induced abortion of her child, and before she is put under anesthesia.

Abortion facility employees must also follow a detailed script prescribed by law, informing pregnant mothers that they have the “option” at any time to see the ultrasound image, to hear a description of the image, and to receive a printout of the ultrasound image. To guarantee compliance from abortion facilities, legislators added a provision stating that abortionists failing to adhere to the law could expect to find themselves sued in civil court by their clients.

But the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), representing six abortion facilities and an unnamed abortionist in Louisiana, filed suit against the law in federal court, alleging the ultrasound law was “unconstitutionally vague.” CRR’s brief argues, “it is not clear whether the Ultrasound Print Provision requires the person performing the ultrasound examination to compel the woman to accept the envelope.”

The abortion advocacy group’s attorneys argued that if “a woman is required to take a copy of her ultrasound print, there is a risk that it will be discovered by the woman’s partner, relatives, co-workers, or other persons to whom the woman may not wish to disclose her pregnancy or her consideration of an abortion.”

Ben Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life Federation (LARTL), called the CRR lawsuit “an attempt by the abortion industry to tangle up our bill.” Both LARTL and the Bioethics Defense Fund assisted in the drafting of the Ultrasound Before Abortion Act, authored by state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome (D–Baton Rouge).

“We thinks it’s baseless and will shortly be cleared up,” Clapper told

The CRR also is challenging the constitutionality of another law, which exempts abortionists from state or private malpractice coverage when they conduct an abortion on an “uncomplicated and viable pregnancy” that poses no risk to the life of the mother. They contest the law would deter doctors from performing abortions, and therefore would place an unconstitutional burden on women’s “right” to an abortion.

The law was authored by another pro-life Democrat, state Rep. Robert A. Johnson of Marksville.

Both the ultrasound bill and the malpractice exclusion bill were passed in the Louisiana legislature by overwhelming bipartisan margins before being signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal on July 7.

See previous coverage by

Bobby Jindal Signs Landmark Abortion Reforms into Louisiana Law

‘Bayou State’ Scores another Pro-Life Win with Ultrasound Act

Louisiana Lawmakers Clamp Down on Law-Breaking Abortionists

Louisiana Passes Opt-Out Bill Voiding ObamaCare’s Abortion Mandate