Judge Halts Enforcement of New Louisiana Abortion Law
By Matt Pearce
Louisiana's new antiabortion law can take effect Monday as scheduled, but provisions requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals cannot be enforced against clinics and doctors who filed suit, a federal judge ruled Sunday night.
U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles, a recent Obama appointee who sits in Baton Rouge, granted a temporary restraining order against state officials after three of Louisiana's five abortion-performing clinics sued.
The plaintiffs contended that a new state law requiring that doctors have "active admitting privileges" at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics did not allow those physicians enough time to obtain such privileges before the law was set to take effect Monday morning.
The Legislature passed the measure overwhelmingly, and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed it into law in June, about 81 days before its effective date. The clinics in Metairie, Shreveport and Bossier City contended that getting new admitting privileges could sometimes take 240 days or longer, according to the judge's ruling.
As a result, the clinics and doctors argued in their lawsuit that the new law would result in "the majority if not all" of the state's abortion clinics having to stop their work, and would "effectively eliminate all access to legal abortion in Louisiana."
The judge did not suspend the entire law, but rather told the plaintiffs that they would be able to continue their work without penalty while the matter was further examined in court and while the doctors pursued admitting privileges.
"Plaintiffs will be allowed to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges," DeGravelles wrote.
Two other Louisiana abortion clinics did not join the suit and apparently are not covered by DeGravelles' ruling.
The Louisiana decision comes days after a federal judge in Texas struck down two provisions of a new state law that had already forced the closure of half the state's abortion clinics. That decision granted at least a temporary reprieve to nearly a dozen more facilities in Texas that would have otherwise gone out of business Monday.
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