Louisiana Right to Life sent a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards today respectfully urging him to take decisive action to equally enforce his emergency health orders regarding postponement of elective surgeries and medical procedures on abortion facilities which, according to public record, have blatantly disregarded public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, said, “Abortion businesses are once again putting profits over patients. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has clearly stated that Texas is justified in postponing elective abortions. Without clear and decisive action from Gov. Edwards and his administration, Louisiana will continue to be the Covid-19 abortion destination of the South.” To Read the Timeline Overview and Full Statement, Click Here
On Monday, Louisiana Right to Life, through a public records request, obtained a letter dated April 15, 2020. The letter was sent by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to June Medical Services, doing business as Hope Medical Group for Women, the same Shreveport abortion facility that is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate a state law requiring its physicians to have the same hospital admitting privileges required of all outpatient surgical centers.
The April 15 letter followed Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s COVID-19 Task Force investigation of two abortion clinics and an endoscopy clinic that were alleged to be performing elective procedures in violation of the postponement orders related to COVID-19. In the letter, among other things, LDH stated that Hope Medical disregarded the emergency health orders by adopting a blanket policy that all surgical and chemical abortion procedures are exempt. Instead of reviewing each patient to determine if her medical condition met the LDH emergency-only procedure rule, Hope Medical scheduled as many abortions as it could, including those on women from out of state.
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The letter states that “accepting out-of-state patients and scheduling patients weeks in advance is evidence that these procedures are de facto, not emergency medical conditions.” LDH directed the abortion facility to send a “corrective action plan” by April 17. LARTL has yet to receive a copy of any response by Hope Medical, but the Shreveport abortion clinic was open with a full parking lot on Monday, April 20.
Also on Monday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released an opinion that has the effect of upholding Texas’ pandemic-related public health order to postpone all elective abortions, whether surgical or chemically induced. The Fifth Circuit allowed only abortions reaching the legal limit of 22 weeks gestation by April 22, 2020, the expiration of the elective surgery and procedure notice. (Click here to read opinion.)
Finally, Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the LDH State Health Officer, made comments during Gov. Edwards’ press conference Monday, April 20, that left the public confused on both state policy and its enforcement.
“Public record now shows that the Shreveport abortion clinic has blatantly disregarded COVID-19 emergency health orders,” Clapper said. “Gov. Edwards must issue clear policy on the operation of licensed outpatient abortion facilities and equally enforce the emergency pandemic order to ensure non-emergency procedures are not occurring at Louisiana abortion facilities. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear: Public health emergencies permit a state to take protective measures that curtail even constitutionally protected conduct in order to ‘flatten the curve’ of a highly infectious disease and preserve the use of scarce personal protection equipment.
“Gov. Edwards has rightly directed his health department to issue elective procedure postponement measures to fight COVID-19. Gov. Edwards must equally enforce his orders, and both the Department of Health and State Board of Medical Examiners must hold accountable those who have callously violated these critical orders to the endangerment of women, medical staff and the public.”