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Federal judge temporarily blocks enforcement of new Louisiana abortion safety law

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

A federal judge has barred the state of Louisiana from taking any action against abortion facilities found to be in violation of a new state law requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. 

The law, which went into effect Monday, was intended to ensure continuity of care for women who suffer serious complications from abortions.  But three abortion facilities have sued to overturn the law, arguing that because all but one part-time abortionist in the state have been unable to secure admitting privileges at any local hospitals, enforcement of the law would force all five abortion facilities in the state to close down – something they argue presents an unconstitutional roadblock to a woman’s “right” to access abortion-on-demand.

Late Sunday, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles granted the abortionists a temporary reprieve, ordering the state to refrain from penalizing facilities that fail to meet the new guidelines until he makes a ruling regarding the law’s constitutionality.  Arguments in the case will be heard within the month, he said.

In issuing his ruling, Judge deGravelles noted that the abortionists might have exaggerated the immediate effects of the law on their clinics, since state officials already said they would not punish abortionists who had applied for admitting privileges at local hospitals, but were still waiting for decisions.

“Because the applications of the doctors have not been acted upon at this time, the Court believes any undue burden that might occur if they were denied is speculative,” deGravelles wrote. “While the doctors point to some preliminary indications that their applications may not be granted, the Court finds this evidence insufficient to carry their burden.”

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, called deGravelle’s decision to delay the law’s implementation a “setback,” but acknowledged that it was probably the best the judge could do under the circumstances, since the plaintiffs refused the state’s initial offer to hold off on prosecuting abortionists who were still waiting to hear back from hospitals regarding admitting privileges.

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"Prompt implementation of HB 388 will allow Louisiana to raise the standard of care in Louisiana abortion facilities sooner rather than later,” Clapper said. “While any delay of the law is a setback to that goal, we believe Judge deGravelles' limited decision was a fair one.”

“Unfortunately, the abortion industry's attorneys rejected the state's offered compromise on Friday and demanded the halting of the law completely,” Clapper stated. “They are interested only in preventing the patient-centered standards from taking effect instead of working with the state to find a fair way to move forward.  [DeGravelle’s] decision … allows the law to go into effect but provides time for hospitals to respond to the abortion physicians' applications.” 

"Since abortion was legalized in the United States, the abortion industry has virtually opposed every common-sense effort to raise medical standards at abortion facilities and give women more information about abortion and their options,” Clapper said. “These abortion facilities want less oversight so they can sell more abortions.” 

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