Appeals court rules against La. abortion providers

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has ruled that a group of Louisiana abortion providers lack the standing to challenge part of a 1997 law that can make them liable for damage caused by an abortion procedure and denies them access to a state-run fund for paying malpractice judgments.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Helen “Ginger” Berrigan, who said Louisiana cannot enforce the 1997 law.

William Rittenberg, a lawyer for Hope Medical Group for Women and two physicians who performed abortions there, told The Times-Picayune that they hadn’t decided whether to seek a rehearing by the 5th Circuit or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

“We disagree,” he said of the decision, “but they’re the court and we’re not.”

Berrigan ruled that the law is unconstitutionally vague and would impose an undue burden on any woman who wanted an abortion.

The 5th Circuit panel said the law may make it difficult for abortion providers to obtain the necessary insurance. But the judges noted that abortion providers are disqualified from accessing the fund “only for injuries arising from a particular type of procedure.”

“A person who performs those procedures is not disqualified from otherwise participating in the fund, just as a woman who exercises her right to undergo such a procedure is not disqualified from recovering from the fund for unrelated malpractice,” the panel’s opinion says.

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