Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas-style Clinic Shutdown Law in Louisiana, Three out of Four Remaining Abortion Clinics in the State Will Be Forced to Close

Center for Reproductive Rights Vows Immediate Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Order comes one week before oral argument at the Supreme Court in challenge to similar Texas law.

(PRESS RELEASE)  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today granted an extraordinary emergency stay of a federal district court decision from late January which preliminarily blocked Louisiana’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law—meaning all but one provider of safe and legal abortion in the state will be forced to close.

The law—which was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal in June 2014 and forces any doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital—will take effect immediately and is expected to force three of the four remaining clinics to close unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes immediate action.  If the Supreme Court fails to act, the closest provider of safe and legal abortion for many women in the state will now be located in Jackson, Mississippi—a clinic that is only open due to a court order obtained by the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Louisiana women's health care providers today announced their plans to seek emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: 

“Today’s ruling thrusts Louisiana into a reproductive health care crisis, where women will face limited safe and legal options when they’ve made the decision to end a pregnancy.

“In exactly one week, we will be arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court to put an end to the kinds of unjust and unconstitutional attacks on women’s rights and health that we are seeing play out right now in Louisiana.

 “Whether in Louisiana, Texas, or elsewhere, women should not be forced to run to court year after year to protect their fundamental rights. It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that politicians cannot sneak around the Constitution to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion.          

“We will immediately seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court so these clinics are able to reopen and continue serving the women of Louisiana.”

Today’s decision comes just over three months after the Supreme Court agreed to review Texas’ clinic shutdown law— a measure that has already shuttered more than half of the abortion providers in Texas, and is poised to leave the nation’s second-largest state with 10 or fewer abortion clinics.  The Fifth Circuit has issued three separate opinions in over two years (October 2013; October 2014; June 2015) which shuttered clinics in Texas; two of three orders were effectively reversed because the Supreme Court intervened to keep the clinics open.  Oral argument in Texas’ clinic shutdown law at the Supreme Court is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10 a.m. ET.   

Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than a quarter of 1 percent of patients experiencing a major complication. Furthermore, privileges can be very difficult to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases against abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications. Earlier this year, the nation’s leading medical experts--including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as organizations representing pediatricians, nurses, family physicians, osteopaths, hospitalists and public health specialists—united in opposition to clinic shutdown laws like Louisiana’s in amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reject Texas’ clinic shutdown law.

Clinic shutdown laws have swept the South in recent years, threatening to further devastate abortion access in a region already facing limited availability of reproductive health care services.  The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is awaiting a decision on whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review its state’s clinic shutdown law while courts have blocked similar measures in OklahomaTennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin and Kansas. 

Ilene Jaroslaw, David Brown, and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias, Kerry Jones, Tim Gallivan, and a team of additional lawyers from Morrison & Foerster, and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC filed the challenge to Louisiana’s clinic shutdown law on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic, and Bossier City Medical Suite in August 2014.  A federal district court judge blocked the measure from taking effect the same month; the same judge continued to block the measure in January 2016.

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