Center for Reproductive Rights Files New Lawsuit Challenging Every Abortion Restriction Passed in Louisiana This Year

Louisiana passes seven abortion restrictions this session, the highest number of any state in 2016. New filing comes four days after U.S. Supreme Court issues historic ruling reaffirming a woman’s constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion.

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit in federal district court today on behalf of women’s health care providers challenging the seven abortion restrictions passed in Louisiana this year—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 passed the highest number of measures restricting women’s access to abortion this year—and the Center is challenging every single restriction in this new filing, arguing that each is unconstitutional on its own and that collectively the bills impermissibly burden women seeking access to abortion in Louisiana. 

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

“Louisiana politicians are trying to do what the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled decisively they cannot, burying women’s right to safe and legal abortion under an avalanche of unjustified and burdensome restrictions.

“This law creates a web of red tape that women and their doctors cannot hope to escape, driving safe and legal care out of reach for many Louisiana women and putting their health and well-being at risk. 

“We are asking the district court to immediately block these unconstitutional laws.”

In addition to the mandatory delay and ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion, the Center’s lawsuit also challenges:

  • a measure which could effectively ban medication abortion by imposing impossible requirements on women and their physicians when a woman completes her medication abortion outside of a doctor’s office; 
  • a measure which polices a woman’s reason for needing to end a pregnancy by banning abortion in cases of genetic abnormalities;   
  • a measure which further limits the availability of abortion by restricting which types of physicians may offer abortion care;
  • a measure which further stigmatizes abortion care by not only prohibiting any state or local government agency from entering into any funding agreement with any abortion provider, but also prohibiting state or local government officials from contracting with any third party that contracts with an abortion provider;
  • a measure which imposes a prison term of hard labor for receiving reimbursement covering expenses related to carrying out the wishes of a woman who--following an abortion--wants to donate fetal tissue for medical research; notably, the measure does not impose the same restriction if a woman experiences a miscarriage.

This unprecedented wave of new restrictions adds to the many obstacles that Louisiana women already face when they have made the decision to end a pregnancy, including a 24 mandatory delay, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and a Texas-style clinic shutdown law which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital—a measure that remains blocked because of an order from the U.S. Supreme Court obtained by the Center for Reproductive Rights in March 2016.  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court struck Texas’ clinic shutdown law as unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt--the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades.

Bans on the most common method of second trimester abortion like Louisiana’s face strong opposition.  West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed a similar measure earlier this year while courts in Kansas and Oklahoma have already blocked similar measures due to challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Additionally, major medical groups oppose these types of bans.  In an amicus brief opposing the Kansas measure, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that the ban “raises serious safety and health concerns for women as well as intrudes unnecessarily into the patient-physician relationship.”  Despite this opposition, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed a similar measure into law earlier this year while the West Virginia legislature voted to override Governor Tomblin’s veto.

Additionally, mandatory delays like Louisiana’s can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs safe and legal abortion care—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers to forcing women to make additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work.  Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers.  Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.

Janet Crepps, David Brown, Zoe Levine, Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a team of attorneys from Morrison and Foerster, and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC filed today’s challenge in federal district court in Baton Rouge on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women and Bossier City Medical Suite.  There are nearly one million women of reproductive age in Louisiana and only four providers of safe and legal abortion in the state.

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