Louisiana Facing $4.7 Million Legal Bill as State Continues to Defend Unconstitutional Clinic Shutdown Law

Center for Reproductive Rights entitled to legal fees after federal district court permanently blocks measure

(PRESS RELEASE)  The Center for Reproductive Rights yesterday filed a request for more than $4.7 million in legal fees accrued during its court battle with the state of Louisiana over its clinic shutdown law—a measure that was recently permanently blocked by a federal district court judge.  Remarkably, Louisiana continues to defend its unconstitutional clinic shutdown law despite last summer’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt which struck an identical Texas measure as unconstitutional.

The request covers expenses accumulated by the nonprofit Center for Reproductive Rights and its pro bono co-counsel during nearly three years of litigation challenging the measure.

The state of Texas is also currently facing a $4.8 million dollar fee request from the Center for its court battle in Whole Woman’s Health

“Louisiana politicians’ hostility to women’s health and rights wastes taxpayer dollars,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

“Rather than investing in policies which improve women’s lives, Louisiana politicians are throwing away taxpayer’s hard-earned money defending a harmful and unconstitutional measure.  Louisiana women deserve better.

“The Center for Reproductive Rights vows to stand with Louisiana women and continue the legal battle against this sham law.”

Louisiana’s clinic shutdown law was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal in June 2014 and requires any doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.  If allowed to take effect, the measure would force two of the three remaining clinics in the state to close.  If the majority of Louisiana’s clinics were to close, the closest provider of safe and legal abortion for many women in the state would be located in Jackson, Mississippi—a clinic that is only open due to a court order obtained by the Center for Reproductive Rights

 Clinic shutdown laws like Louisiana’s have continued to fall around the country since last summer’s landmark Supreme Court victory in Whole Woman’s Health.  Similar laws in MississippiOklahomaTennessee, Alabama, Ohio, and Wisconsin have all been permanently blocked after the nation’s highest court found Texas’ clinic shutdown laws unconstitutional.  Laws have also been blocked preliminarily--in ongoing litigation--in Kentucky and Missouri.  The Virginia Board of Health also voted to amend its Texas-style clinic shutdown regulations in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, making Virginia the first state to take the step of implementing the Whole Woman’s Health decision through a legislative or administrative body.  

The Center for Reproductive Rights is also currently challenging every single abortion restriction Louisiana passed in 2016—a case filed within one week of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health.  None of those restrictions are currently in effect due to an agreement between the plaintiffs and the state.     

Case History

David Brown and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias, Marc Hearron, David Scannell, Kerry Jones, and Tim Gallivan 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 (Causeway Medical Clinic closed in January 2016 and Bossier City Medical Suite closed in March 2017).  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.  On February 24, 2016, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an emergency stay of the federal district court decision, immediately closing two of the then-four remaining clinics in the state and threatening to close another were it not for immediate Supreme Court relief.  On March 4, 2016, the nation’s highest court stepped in to protect abortion access in Louisiana—just two days after hearing oral argument in the legal challenge to Texas’ clinic shutdown law.  A federal district court permanently blocked the measure in April 2017.   A few weeks later, Louisiana appealed that decision.