Louisiana Abortion Law Protecting Women Gets New Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 22, 2010   |   2:17PM   |   Baton Rouge, LA

Not content to allow a Louisiana law to stand that allows the health department to hold abortion centers accountable for violating health and safety standards, the law is now subject to another lawsuit.

Five abortion centers and an abortion practitioner filed the lawsuit contenting the law allows the health department to suspend or revoke their licenses “based on any violation of any state or federal law or regulation” without warning.

That, they say, is a violation of due process.

They say the law intends “to close down outpatient abortion facilities regardless of whether those facilities are operating safely.”

The lawsuit against Bruce D. Greenstein, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, is identical to a lawsuit filed two months ago in the Federal Court in New Orleans.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the initial lawsuit for the abortion businesses claiming the Department of Health and Hospitals should not be allowed more assertive powers under the law to revoke licenses for the abortion facilities and the new lawsuit is a revised version of the old one with a change of venue.

Dorinda Bordlee, a pro-life attorney in Louisiana who is intimately involved in state legislative matters for the Bioethics Defense Fund, emailed LifeNews.com about the lawsuit.

“The Louisiana Department of Health asked the legislature to strengthen the abortion clinic regulation law to protect women’s health against dangerous practices such as prescribing narcotics without a license, or operating under unsanitary conditions,” Bordlee explained. “It is not surprising that abortionists would not want to be regulated under the same strict standards as every other ambulatory surgical care center.”

Bordlee also explained the rationale behind the new lawsuit.

“In their Motion to Dismiss, the State pointed out that in addition to several other legal issues that will likely result in the dismissal of this baseless challenge, the lawyers for the abortionists had filed the suit in the wrong venue,” she added. “So the newly filed suit is simply the old challenge re-filed in the Middle District of Louisiana.”

The lawsuit came after the state health department used the law to shut down an abortion center for putting women’s health at risk. An investigation found it had violations posing “significant health and safety risks to clients.”

Greenstein wrote: “The findings of the Department’s survey included several egregious safety violations and at least one resulting in immediate jeopardy. The Department’s conclusion was that women visiting this facility would have their health and safety compromised.”

But a state judge lifted the emergency suspension order issued by the Louisa Department of Health and Hospitals closing the Shreveport abortion center.

State Judge District Judge R. Michael Caldwell ruled the abortion business can reopen for business even though it has not fixed the problems that made it a danger to the public.

Greenstein said he is upset the judge did not seek any input from his department or those who found the violations of state standards.

“So, today, we are very disappointed that the judge would put the special interests of this abortion facility over the health and safety of women. This order was signed without any notification to us and without any effort to hear from medical professionals about the risk to the facility’s clients posed by the violations our inspectors found,” he said. “We will continue to fight to protect Louisiana residents and to shut down activities that put women in harm.”

The health department said it found the Hope Medical Group for Women abortion center failed to ensure a physician performed a physical exam of the mother prior to the abortion and failed to properly monitor vital signs of patients under anesthesia.

It also did not have proper procedures in place for administering anesthesia and failed to have properly trained medical professionals administering anesthesia and engaging in other medical procedures related to it. [related]

The suspension was the first case of a Louisiana abortion center closed under the legislation, authored by Representative Fred Mills (D-Parks) and strongly supported by Louisiana Right to Life Federation, which was inspired by then DHH Secretary Alan Levine.

The Louisiana health department shut down a New Orleans abortion center in January for putting women’s health at risk.