Yesterday, after six full days of testimony, Judge John deGravelles of the Middle Federal District Court in Baton Rouge brought the trial regarding Louisiana’s 2014 HB 388 / Act 620 to a close. The six days included testimony from both the plaintiffs of the abortion industry and the defendants from the state of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals. Witnesses from both sides includes many doctors, academics, and even Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert.
The trial revealed that three abortion physicians in Louisiana currently have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion facility where they work. Judge deGravelles indicated that he would continue to monitor the situation of other pending admitting privilege applications and would likely release his decision around September 30, 2015.
Louisiana Right to Life, which garnered plenty of attention, along with the Bioethics Defense Fund, as the court discussed the origin of HB 388 / Act 620, was in attendance throughout the trial. Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, issued the following observations at the conclusion of the trial:
“Louisiana Right to Life firmly believes that the admitting privileges requirement in HB 388 / Act 620 will increase the health and safety of women seeking an abortion in the state of Louisiana. The case presented by the State of Louisiana this week furthered this argument, and we look forward to Judge deGravelles’ decision and a likely appeal in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a similar Texas provision in 2014.
“Prior to passing HB 388, the Louisiana Legislature heard testimony regarding the various violations of health and safety that have plagued Louisiana abortion facilities over the years, and heard from experts in the medical field regarding how admitting privileges would increase patient safety. Over the past week, the State’s attorneys have provided the court with even more expert testimony regarding how the admitting privileges rule would increase patient health and safety, and would ensure that Louisiana women receive the highest possible standard of care.
Dr. Damon Cudihy, a Lafayette OB-GYN with experience also as an ER physician, was an expert witness on Friday that furthered this case on how admitting privileges would further patient safety. The common-sense law will also hold abortion providers to the same standard as other physicians performing outpatient surgeries across the state. This was made clear by the testimony provided by both Secretary Kliebert of DHH, along with expert witness Dr. Robert Marier, former Director of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.
“In upholding a similar admitting privilege requirement passed by the Texas legislature, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 found a clear “connection between the admitting privileges rule, and the desirable protection of abortion patients’ health.” This ruling echoed decisions by the 4th and 8th Circuit Courts, which stated that admitting privilege requirements “are obviously beneficial to patients,” and “further important state health objectives.” Since there are significant similarities between the relevant portions of the Texas and Louisiana laws, and the fact that both states have abortion physicians with admitting privileges (unlike Mississippi), we believe considerable attention must be paid to the previous decisions of the 5th Circuit upholding the Texas provisions.
“Regarding today’s Supreme Court decision to grant an emergency appeal keeping certain Texas abortion facilities open, it is important to remember that the Texas law includes requirements that abortion facilities meet “ambulatory surgical center” guidelines, a provision not found in the Louisiana law. In addition, the decision today is a temporary one, giving the Supreme Court time to determine if they will grant a full hearing to the Texas law.”