Louisiana Law Shutting Down Abortion Center Upheld in Court

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 25, 2011   |   1:20PM    Baton Rouge, LA

A federal court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by abortion advocates against a Louisiana law requiring them to meet certain patient health and safety regulations.

Last November, because they were 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, 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 claimed, is a violation of due process. They also said the law intends “to close down outpatient abortion facilities regardless of whether those facilities are operating safely.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion legal group, filed the suit against Act 490, Louisiana’s Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law, that became law last June.

In its ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana dismissed the lawsuit Bossier City Medical Suite of Texas v. Greenstein on multiple grounds.

“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,” the court said.

“Though this provision potentially subjects Plaintiffs to a stricter standard of review for violations of state or federal law,” the ruling adds, “Plaintiffs were legally obligated to adhere to those statutes and regulations notwithstanding Act 490.”

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group, served as co-counsel with lawyers from the Louisiana Department of Health to defend the law in court.

“A patient’s health is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “The court was right to reject this attempt to escape common-sense health and safety regulations. If abortionists truly cared about the people who enter their doors, they wouldn’t be attempting to tear down these types of laws.”

Dorinda Bordlee, a pro-life attorney in Louisiana who is intimately involved in state legislative matters for the Bioethics Defense Fund, previously talked with 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.”

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.”

Bruce D. Greenstein, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, wrote about the problematic abortion center: “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 at the time he was 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.

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.