Judge Tosses Louisiana Law for Damages Against Abortion Docs

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 30, 2012   |   4:48PM   |   Washington, DC

A judge has tossed out a Louisiana law that has been on the books for more than a decade that makes it easier for victims of botched and failed abortions to win damages in lawsuits against abortion practitioners.

According to one report:

The law, R.S. 9:2800.12, on the books since 1997, was authored by one-term state Rep. Tom Thornhill  (R- Dist, 76),  Slidell attorney who served in the state Legislature from 1996-2000.

The strict liability law allowed legal action against doctors who performed abortions  –  regardless of whether they committed any fault or negligence in the abortion procedure.  The law also excluded physicians who performed abortions from the benefits of Louisiana’s tort reform laws.

In the judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Helen G. Berrigan wrote that the law placed “an undue burden on women’s right to abortion in violation of the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution…”

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm, filed the suit against the law after the state’s Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF) refused to convene a medical review panel to review a claim of malpractice brought against two abortion practitioners, and applauded the verdict.

“This law was nothing but an attempt to drive responsible abortion providers out of practice,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This decision is a tremendous victory for Louisiana reproductive healthcare providers and the women they serve. Finally, physicians who perform safe and legal abortions can have the same opportunities to serve patients as every other physician in Louisiana, without fear of frivolous lawsuits.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law in 2010, arguing that its provisions treated abortion providers differently from legitimate medical professionals.

Providers who participate in the PCF receive a range of benefits including an overall cap on medical malpractice damages of $500,000 per plaintiff; a limitation on physician liability of $100,000 dollars and a requirement that any medical malpractice claim must be reviewed by a medical review panel before it can be filed in court. In addition, the Fund provides access to coverage when there is no insurance available on the commercial market or when coverage is only offered at unaffordable rates.