Center for Reproductive Rights Challenges Louisiana Clinic Shutdown Laws One Year After Historic Supreme Court Decision

High court’s landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling declared similar restrictions unconstitutional

(PRESS RELEASE) — The Center for Reproductive Rights today filed a new lawsuit against the state of Louisiana’s clinic licensing law that has forced most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. The law contains more than 1,000 medically unnecessary requirements that apply exclusively to clinics that provide abortion. Since the law took effect in 2001, the number of abortion clinics in Louisiana has fallen from 11 to three. 

Today’s filing comes exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar clinic shutdown law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. That landmark ruling affirmed a woman’s fundamental right to access abortion, and declared that laws creating medically unnecessary obstacles on that right are unconstitutional.

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

“Last year’s historic Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health put states on notice that abortion restrictions based on junk science and alternative facts are unconstitutional and cannot stand.

“The Whole Woman’s Health victory is more important now than ever before, and we’re using that decision to take aim at these sham laws, one state at a time. Louisiana’s regulations have nothing to do with women’s health, and everything to do with shaming women and blocking access to abortion care.

“We’re taking Louisiana to court to protect abortion access and make it clear to anti-choice politicians across the U.S. that they are not above the law – and that in a court of law, facts, evidence and the Constitution still matter.”  

The 1,000-plus provisions in the licensing law challenged today include requirements that force women to undergo a compulsory vaginal examination, regardless of her doctor’s recommendation; require doctors to provide their patients with misleading or false information about abortion; and allow the sweeping government collection and review of the medical records of every woman who has an abortion in the state.

Background on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27, 2016, opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was the most important decision on reproductive rights in a generation. The case challenged two provisions of the 2013 Texas law House Bill 2 (HB 2). The first provision required that all abortion providers obtain local hospital admitting privileges, a medically unnecessary mandate that forced the closure of more than half the clinics in the state. The second provision required every licensed abortion facility to meet the same hospital-like building standards as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), which amounts to millions of dollars in medically unnecessary facility renovations.

The landmark victory in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt not only upheld decades of precedent affirming a woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion but codified that politicians cannot pass restrictions to abortion without a basis in fact and scientific evidence.

The Center for Reproductive Rights in Louisiana

Today’s filing also comes nearly one year after the Center for Reproductive Rights sued Louisiana over every single abortion restriction passed by the state in 2016 —including a measure which would triple the state’s mandatory delay for women seeking abortion from 24 to 72 hours and a measure which bans the most common method of second trimester abortion. 

Louisiana is facing a bill for more than $4.7 million in legal fees accrued during the Center’s court battle with the state over another clinic shutdown law that was recently permanently blocked by a federal district court judge. Remarkably, Louisiana continues to defend that law even though it is virtually identical to the Texas restriction struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt.

Louisiana Case Information

Today’s challenge was filed by David Brown, Zoe Levine, Jenny Ma and Caroline Sacerdote from the Center for Reproductive Rights; Larry Samuel of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips LLC and Shannon Rose Selden of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women—one of the last three remaining abortion clinics in the state. 

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