Federal Judge Blocks Louisiana's New Abortion Law

Posted: Aug 31, 2014 10:33 PM
Federal Judge Blocks Louisiana's New Abortion Law

A federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of Louisiana’s new abortion law since it could have led to the closure of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics. The law required doctors to have admitting privileges for hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic (via Associated Press/Huffington Post):

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana's restrictive new abortion law.

District Judge John deGravelles says the law can still take effect Monday but officials cannot penalize doctors or clinics for breaking it while a challenge is heard.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. A Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit claims doctors haven't had enough time to obtain privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.

The law would have fined non-compliant doctors $4,000 and the loss of their medical license.  While the law goes into effect without enforcement measures, the judge noted that it's unclear if the regulatory fallout would lead to abortion clinic closures:

However, deGravelles wrote, clinics' lawyers have not proven that enforcing the law would shut down most, if not all, of Louisiana's clinics, eliminating access to legal abortions in Louisiana. Because the doctors' applications haven't all been acted on and the attorneys don't represent two clinics, that's speculative, he said.

"How many patients do these other two facilities treat? How many doctors practice there? How many of these doctors have applied for admitting privileges and what is the status of their applications?" he wrote. He said he needs answers to those and other questions, including how far patients would have to travel for care if the other two clinics stayed open.

Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.