Abortions to resume at Louisiana clinic after state judge temporarily blocks trigger bans
Louisiana’s so-called “trigger laws” that criminalized abortion procedures and shuttered the state’s clinics immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade were blocked by a state judge on Monday.
Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Robin Giarrusso issued a temporary restraining order on the law that banned almost all abortion procedures, following a lawsuit that was filed Monday morning by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Louisiana abortion providers.
In response to the order, Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women, said the Shreveport clinic will begin providing abortions again on Tuesday.
Pittman said staff at the clinic are calling back patients who'd had their appointments canceled in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
"It's a temporary reprieve, but it's a reprieve," Pittman said.
They're trying to confirm people quickly, she added, because there's a long list of others begging for appointments. The clinic had a waiting list 400 people long before the decision came down and closed Louisiana's three clinics — the other two in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Attorneys acting on behalf of the Shreveport clinic Hope Medical Group for Women and the organization Medical Students for Choice said they were seeking a temporary restraining order to block the tangle of overlapping and sometimes conflicting trigger laws that took effect Friday, and noted the rollout of the new regime left doctors unsure of how they could legally provide abortion care to end life-threatening pregnancies.
“Louisiana’s rushed and poorly conceived trigger laws are unconstitutionally vague and violate due process,” said Joanna Wright, the New Orleans attorney leading the legal challenge. “It is unfortunate that in his haste to score political points in the aftermath of Dobbs, the state’s Attorney General (Jeff Landry) has ushered in an era of complete disregard for women’s bodily integrity and reproductive autonomy.”
A hearing is scheduled for July 8, according to the judge’s order.
Louisiana Right to Life, the state’s most influential anti-abortion rights group, said it is “confident that our pro-life laws will be vindicated.”
"While these matters are still developing, Louisiana law is clear that babies will be protected from abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned,” Ben Clapper, Louisiana Right to Life executive director, said in a statement. “We are confident that our courts, whether at the district, appellate, or state Supreme Court level, will affirm our laws in time.”
Shortly after the order was issued, Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill told NPR’s Sarah McCammon that the attorney general’s office plans to file a legal challenge to force the trigger laws back into place.
UPDATE: Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill tells NPR the state attorney general’s office plans to file a challenge to this order. https://t.co/UZZphKAyJX— Sarah McCammon📻 (@sarahmccammon) June 27, 2022
Louisiana was one of only three states where trigger laws took effect immediately after the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade and undid nearly 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion access. At least 11 states have banned abortion since the ruling was announced. Half a dozen other states have trigger laws outlawing the procedure set to take effect within the month.
Louisiana’s trigger law purports to ban abortions after the “moment of fertilization and implantation.” Doctors who perform the procedure in violation of the law face up to 15 years in prison and $200,000 fines. Under the new law, abortions would be allowed to end ectopic and other medically futile pregnancies and to save the life of the pregnant person, but securing an abortion in those cases requires doctors and patients to satisfy a series of stringent legal requirements.
Louisiana lawmakers recently passed sweeping legislation that rewrote large portions of the state’s 2006 trigger law and dozens of other prospective abortion restrictions that took effect Friday in hopes of clarifying the legal landscape in a post-Roe Louisiana. But abortion-rights advocates say their efforts made things even less clear.
Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the challenge of Louisiana’s law was part of her organization’s nationwide effort to maintain abortion access as long as possible through legal action.
“We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can,” Northrup said. “Every day that a clinic is open and providing abortion services can make a difference in a person’s life.”
Pittman has previously partnered with the Center for Reproductive Rights to successfully challenge the state of Louisiana’s pre-Dobbs abortion restrictions and regulations. She said in a statement that her “heart is with” patients whose future was cast into doubt by the seismic Supreme Court ruling issued last week.
“Seeking reproductive care is already difficult in the U.S., and especially in Louisiana,” Pittman said. “We are committed to this monumental legal challenge — not to perpetuate an endless political battle, but to ensure our patients’ wellbeing and so that they may draw strength from our dedication to this fight.”