Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Law Closing Abortion Clinics, Two Abortion Centers Reopen

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 4, 2016   |   6:23PM    Washington, DC

The Supreme Court has overturned an appeals court order allowing a pro-life law to go into effect in Louisiana that has already closed abortion clinics unable to provide for women’s health.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court overturned a block a federal judge put in place to stop a new law from taking effect that may close three of the four abortion clinics operating in the Bayou State. Now, the Supreme Court has versed that ruling.

As ABC News reports:

The justices effectively reversed an order by the federal appeals court in New Orleans that allowed Louisiana to begin enforcing its 2014 clinic regulation law even as it is being challenged in the courts.

The law requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Two clinics, in Boisier City and Baton Rouge, that had already closed in response to the appellate ruling will reopen and a third clinic in Shreveport that faced imminent closure will remain open, said the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the clinics.

The high court’s order, with only Justice Clarence Thomas noting his dissent, came two days after the justices heard arguments in a major abortion case from Texas and just hours after they voted in a private meeting on the outcome of that case.

Earlier this month, a Louisiana judge sided with abortion advocates and ruled against a state law that would ensure abortion clinics are meeting basic health and safety requirements. Baton Rouge District Judge John deGravelles blocked the law from taking effect and declared it “unconstitutional” in a Tuesday ruling.

The pro-life law would protect women by ensuring that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital, that informed consent protections apply to all abortions, and that facilities that perform more than five abortions maintain proper licensing.

Attorneys for the state immediately asked Judge John deGravelles to stay the order while they appeal it and his Jan. 26 finding that the law is unconstitutional. Today, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today granted an extraordinary emergency stay of the federal court decision. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Louisiana abortion centers behind the lawsuit indicated they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

DeGravelles said in January that of six abortion doctors performing abortions in Louisiana, only two meet the requirement, and one of them has said he would quit if the law is enforced. The pro-life law would protect women by ensuring that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital, that informed consent protections apply to all abortions, and that facilities that perform more than five abortions maintain proper licensing.

Attorneys for Louisiana were confident the appeals court would overturn the judge’s ruling for two reasons.

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They said the judge’s analysis of the number of women likely to be affected used a procedure very different from the one used by the same court when it upheld a similar law in Texas. The 5th Circuit’s procedure would have indicated that the law is constitutional because more than 90 percent of all women of reproductive age are within 150 miles of an abortion clinic, the attorneys’ motion said.

They also took issue with deGravelles’ ruling that a third doctor’s privileges do not meet the law’s requirements even though Kathy Kleibert, who was then health secretary, testified that she would accept them.

Louisiana Right to Life Executive Director Ben Clapper previously told LifeNews: “Not surprisingly, the abortion industry has filed suit to stop the common-sense standards put in place by HB 388. 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.”

Clapper said that although the facilities and doctors are claiming they have not had enough time to get admitting privileges, the amount of time they had was similar to the amount of time involved in the implementation of a similar law in Texas.

The law is responsible for closing abortion clinics that could not guarantee they could protect the health of Texas women. It has been credited with saving the lives of more than 10,000 unborn children.

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