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Three Louisiana abortion facilities and two abortionists are challenging a new abortion safety law set to take effect September 1 on the claim that it will force every abortion facility in the state to close its doors.

Louisiana HB 388, the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, requires that abortionists maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to ensure continuity of care in the event of major complications.

According to the federal lawsuit filed by Bossier City Medical Suite in Bossier City, Causeway Medical Clinic in Metairie, and Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, four out of the state’s five abortion centers have been unable to secure admitting privileges for any of their abortionists.  And while Hope Medical Group for Women has one part-time abortionist with admitting privileges, their primary abortionist does not. 

All three clinics are suing to block enforcement of the law, claiming that if they – along with the other two facilities in the state, Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans and Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge – are forced to shut down, abortion will be unavailable in Louisiana, forcing women to travel out of state for the procedure.  That, the abortionists argue, would present an “unconstitutional” obstacle to Louisiana women’s “right” to have abortions.

Pro-life leaders in Louisiana, however, derided the lawsuit as a desperate attempt by substandard abortion facilities to continue to avoid upholding basic medical standards. 

“Not surprisingly, the abortion industry has filed suit to stop the common-sense standards put in place by HB 388,” said Ben Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life.  “We believe it is the right of the state of Louisiana to close loopholes that allow abortion facilities to operate at a lower standard as compared to other surgical facilities.”

The three abortion centers suing to block the new law have previously displayed appalling disregard for client safety.  Hope Medical Group for Women has been cited 13 times since 2004 for health and safety violations, including failure to give women physical exams prior to abortions, improper administration of anesthesia, and failure to monitor their clients’ vital signs.  The facility was even temporarily shut down in 2010 after investigators declared it “an immediate threat” to public health.

Meanwhile, Causeway Medical Clinic has been cited 14 times since 2007 for violations, including failure to determine viability of infants before abortion, failure to comply with parental consent laws, use of expired medications, and generally unsanitary conditions.  Bossier City Medical Suite has been cited 8 times since 2004, mostly for narcotics violations, but it was also found to be unsanitary by state health investigators. 

The two clinics not participating in the lawsuit have similarly spotty safety records.  Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge is particularly infamous for its history of botched abortions and its strong ties to the “House of Horrors” abortion facility in West Philadelphia where late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell brutally slaughtered nearly full-term babies born alive after botched procedures. Meanwhile, Women’s Health Care Center of New Orleans has been cited a dozen times in the past ten years for health and safety violations, including failing to report abortions as required by law, failure to provide informed consent, shoddy record-keeping, and failure to inspect equipment annually.

Additionally, both the Causeway and Delta facilities were cited in 2011 for failing to report sexual abuse of children.

Given the track record of all five facilities, it is perhaps unsurprising that hospitals have been reluctant to extend admitting privileges to their abortionists.  But the lawsuit claims that the abortionists simply weren’t given enough time to gain admitting privileges – an excuse the law’s supporters aren’t buying.

“[T]he writing was clearly on the wall throughout May that the law would pass and be signed into law by Gov. [Bobby] Jindal,” Clapper said.  He also noted that the amount of time between the bill’s signing and its implementation was similar to the amount of time involved when neighboring Texas passed and enacted a similar law.

Texas’ law was challenged on similar grounds to the current lawsuit against HB 388, but in March, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld its constitutionality.  However, in July, a different 5th Circuit panel ruled against a similar law in Mississippi in a split decision.  Both cases are possible contenders for an ultimate judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Clapper said he was optimistic that the abortionists’ challenge to the new safety regulations there would ultimately be unsuccessful.

“Admitting privileges are patient-centered protections that promote the continuity of care between abortion facilities and local hospitals,” Clapper said.  “We look forward to the upcoming court proceedings and the full implementation of HB 388.” 

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