Clinics challenge new Louisiana abortion restrictions

AP News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2016 5:21 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Abortion clinics and their doctors in Louisiana are challenging new abortion restrictions that include making women wait longer and barring a common second-trimester procedure.

The federal lawsuit filed Friday in Baton Rouge seeks to keep the new rules from taking effect on Aug. 1.

Among other restrictions, lawmakers voted to force many women to wait 72 hours and undergo ultrasounds before getting abortions, and they banned a procedure called dilation and evacuation.

The lawmakers say they only want to safeguard women's health, but judges may decide otherwise following Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which declared that it's unconstitutional to impose medically unnecessary rules that place an undue burden on access to abortion.

The decision overturning a Texas law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors was the court's strongest defense of abortion rights in a quarter-century.

The justices blocked enforcement of a similar Louisiana law in March.

Friday's suit was filed on behalf of two north Louisiana clinics and three doctors by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal non-profit. The group's president and CEO, Nancy Northup, said legislatures are "burying women's right to safe and legal abortion under an avalanche of unjustified and burdensome restrictions."

"A web of red tape" over abortions is "driving safe and legal care out of reach for many Louisiana women and putting their health and well-being at risk," her statement added.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who "maintains his pro-life position" on abortion, is reviewing the lawsuit, according to a statement from his press secretary Shauna Sanford.

Louisiana would join at least five other states with the nation's longest wait time, 72 hours. However, the current 24-hour wait would remain for women living 150 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider.

The clinics call the wait "an affront to the dignity and autonomy of women" that "imposes mental hardship and suffering, sorrow, and nervousness."

Other new rules would:

— ban "dilation and evacuation," a procedure used to avoid complications in second-trimester abortions — unless it's deemed necessary to prevent "serious health risk" to the woman.

— require doctors who perform abortions to be either board-certified or certifiable in obstetrics and gynecology, or family medicine.

— require abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains.

— prohibit state and local government agencies from funding an abortion clinic or any entity that contracts with abortion clinics.

The suit says the law "imposes a legal stigma on abortion clinics, isolating them by singling them out to Louisiana businesses as uniquely unqualified entities with whom to contract."

Deanna Wallace, legislative director of Louisiana Right to Life, called them "commonsense protections for the safety of women."