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Appeals Court Upholds Louisiana Law That Closed Abortion Biz

by Steven Ertelt | Baton Rouge, LA | LifeNews.com | 8/17/12 6:16 PM

State

A federal appeals court has upheld a Louisiana law that has been used to close abortion centers in the state that fail to comply with modest health and safety standards for women.

The Louisiana health department had been acting under a new law that gives it more authority to close abortion centers that violate state health and safety standards until a handful of abortion facilities filed a lawsuit against it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit today upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by several abortion clinics against a Louisiana law that requires them to meet certain patient health and safety regulations. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden served as co-counsel for the Louisiana Health Department in arguing to uphold a district court decision that threw out the lawsuit.

“A woman’s health and safety should always be the most important concern in cases like this, and that is indeed the highest concern of Louisiana health officials,” said Aden. “The district court was right to reject this challenge to basic health and safety regulations, and the 5th Circuit has done the right thing in upholding that decision.”

In November 2010, abortion clinics represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against Act 490, Louisiana’s Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law enacted earlier that year. They appealed to the 5th Circuit after the district court dismissed the lawsuit on multiple grounds.

The law states that Louisiana’s secretary of health “may deny a license, may refuse to renew a license, or may revoke an existing license, if an investigation or survey determines that the application or license is in violation of any provision” of the regulations governing outpatient abortion facilities “or in violation of any federal or state law or regulation.”

The law also allows the Department of Health to immediately suspend a license if “the violation[s] pose an imminent or immediate threat to the health, welfare, or safety of a client or patient.”

In its ruling upholding dismissal of the lawsuit, Choice v. Greenstein, the 5th Circuit wrote, “We affirm the district court’s decision to dismiss the claims because Plaintiffs have failed to show that hardship will result from withholding court consideration at this time.”

In its ruling dismissing the lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana wrote, “The Court finds that the Plaintiffs will not suffer any significant hardship. Plaintiffs claim that they will suffer severe hardship because they will be required to make ‘immediate and significant, but unascertainable, changes in their operations.’ However, nothing in Act 490 requires Plaintiffs to alter their conduct; instead, it alters the State’s conduct in detecting and addressing violations.”

Louisiana state health officials closed for good the Gentilly Medical Clinic for Womenabortion business after it failed to respond to actions the state took to revoke its medical license for repeated violations.

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Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein issued the order closing the abortion clinic after initially revoking its medical license on May 25 after a probe found repeated health and safety violations putting women’s health at risk. That was the second order the clinics received — the first one coming in January 2010 for failing to follow basic medical laws.

Officials told AP the appeal of the January 2010 order was moving ahead when another inspection found additional violations that led to the May order. Because the Gentilly Medical Clinic did not appeal the May order, DHH spokeswoman Lisa Faust said the abortion center now has “no legal recourse” to avoid shutting down.