Louisiana Lawmakers Attack Reproductive Rights with Unconstitutional 15-Week Ban

(PRESS RELEASE) Louisiana is on track to adopting one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws—an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 15 weeks. After passing the House of Representatives and Senate, it is now going to Governor John Bel Edwards for his signature. The ban is nearly identical to a Mississippi law that was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant and blocked in March by a federal judge following an emergency filing by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Louisiana’s actions are part of a trend by some states to challenge the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—such legislation has never been upheld by any court.

To date, federal courts have blocked every ban on abortion prior to viability that has been challenged. Other states that have enacted unconstitutional pre-viability bans include Iowa, where on Saturday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a ban on abortions after six weeks, Arizona, North Dakota and Arkansas, all of which have been blocked by courts and the Supreme Court has declined to review those rulings.

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

“Banning access to abortion at 15 weeks is a flat-out violation of Roe v. Wade and Louisiana knows it.  So little faith does Louisiana have in the constitutionality of their abortion ban that it won’t go into effect unless they get an okay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  We are confident that will not happen.

“Louisiana already has five federal lawsuits filed against their relentless battle to deprive women of abortion access and it’s inviting another one. 

“It’s time the state stopped wasting taxpayer money on defending blatantly unconstitutional laws and focused instead on improving health care for Louisiana women and families.”

The Louisiana bill provides that its effective date depends on the outcome of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s 15-week ban, which is currently blocked by a federal district court. This type of provision highlights how Louisiana politicians are proposing legislation that has no chance of standing up in court, and only wastes money on a costly defense of an unconstitutional law. This is particularly indefensible in a state like Louisiana, which performs worse than nearly every other state in the nation in infant and maternal mortality and health.

As courts have repeatedly found in other ban cases, Louisiana’s 15-week ban violates longstanding Supreme Court precedent, established in Roe more than 45 years ago and reaffirmed in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

The Center for Reproductive Rights in Louisiana 
In July 2016, the Center filed a challenge to every harmful abortion restriction passed in Louisiana 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 that bans one of the most common methods of second trimester abortion. These laws were introduced and passed during the same period of time that the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument and issued a decision in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades. In November 2017, a Louisiana federal court rejected in large part the state’s efforts to stop that litigation, finding that there is sufficient basis for the bulk of the claims to proceed.  

Earlier this year, a Louisiana federal court also rejected the state’s efforts to stop a separate case brought by the Center challenging Louisiana’s clinic licensing law, which contains more than 1,000 medically unnecessary requirements that apply exclusively to clinics that provide abortion, and have forced most of the state’s abortion clinics to close.  

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 permanently blocked by a federal district court judge. Louisiana continues to defend that law even though it is virtually identical to the unconstitutional Texas restriction struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Planned Parenthood also had two lawsuits against Louisiana.