La. abortion law ruling expected before Monday
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge will rule before Monday on a request to block enforcement of Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law while a lawsuit seeking to overturn it remains in court, attorneys for both sides said Friday.
The law, which requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, is scheduled to go into effect Monday.
William Rittenberg, an attorney for several abortion clinics and doctors who sued the state last week, said U.S. District Judge John deGravelles will rule before then. The judge heard the case Thursday and said he would issue a ruling Friday but Rittenberg and an attorney for the state said a decision would not be handed down Friday.
"I can confirm that the parties have been unable to work out an agreed stipulation and that the judge will therefore rule on the plaintiffs' request," Kyle Duncan, an attorney for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, wrote in an email Friday. "The court has informed the parties that it will rule before Sept. 1, although likely not today."
The law, backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and passed overwhelmingly by lawmakers, was pushed by anti-abortion supporters who said it was aimed at protecting a woman's health by ensuring access to proper care if they have complications from the procedure. It requires every doctor providing an abortion to have active admitting privileges at a hospital not more than 30 miles from where the abortion is performed. The hospital must provide obstetrical or gynecological health care services.
The law's opponents contend the restrictions are medically unnecessary and designed to limit access to abortion.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1sR26i5 ) that Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert has assured deGravelles she has no intention of enforcing the new law against physicians who applied for admitting privileges during the act's grace period but who have not received answers on those applications.
The grace period ends Sept. 1.
The lawsuit argued the 81 days between Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature and the Sept. 1 effective date was too little time for doctors to get responses from the hospitals, so the law probably would shut down Louisiana's five abortion clinics. Each hospital has its own rules, and some are more complicated than others.
Admitting-privileges laws have passed across the South.
A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.
There are five clinics in Louisiana that perform the procedure: one each in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Metairie, Shreveport and Bossier City.