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Abortions in Louisiana Continue After Judge Blocks State Ban

July 21, 2022, 4:13 PM

A Louisiana judge on Thursday blocked a state law banning abortions, allowing the state’s three clinics to continue providing services while the challenge goes to trial.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) is expected to appeal the three-page order from Judge Don Johnson of Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District.

Johnson’s ruling was critical to ensuring access to healthcare services for Louisiana women, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Joanna Wright of Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP said in an emailed statement.

“We are prepared to prove our case and hope to obtain a final ruling that the trigger bans are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. In the interim, providers are protected against vindictive prosecution from the state,” she said.

The case is one of several recently filed in state courts to invalidate abortions restrictions under state laws, as well as constitutions that explicitly protect privacy rights.

Louisiana’s abortion ban has taken effect twice and has been blocked both times since the US Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The state law doesn’t include any exceptions for victims of rape or incest. The clinic challenging the ban claims the statute is unconstitutional and vague, particularly regarding pregnancies with fatal fetal abnormalities.

Doctors, Patients Harmed

Former Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee and the director of the New Orleans health department are among the doctors who filed affidavits arguing the law will harm doctors and patients in a state that already ranks poorly for maternal and infant health.

Landry moved to exclude most of the affidavits, arguing in a filing that they were “improperly notarized and are ineffective,” and that they raise concerns the plaintiffs don’t address in their challenges.

“This is ultimately going to end up at the Louisiana Supreme Court,” Landry told reporters July 18 in Baton Rouge, La. “We would again urge the Supreme Court to be watching this matter, to be able to take it up as quickly and effectively as possible.”

He’s also asked the state treasurer and bond commission to delay funding requests from New Orleans, where city officials have pledged not to enforce an abortion ban. “That whole approach seems very misguided to me,” Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said July 19 at a news conference.

Edwards signed legislation (S.B. 342) this year adding criminal penalties for abortion providers to Louisiana’s existing trigger ban. The law includes exceptions for ectopic pregnancies, fatal fetal abnormalities, and saving the life of the mother, but not for instances of rape or incest.

In his monthly radio address Wednesday, Edwards said he would push to add exceptions for rape and incest to the law, along with “anything that we can do to try and clarify what the situation is” to address medical providers’ concerns about treating miscarriages and other health emergencies.

“I think there’s always going to be some turbulence when you have a new statute of this type that takes effect,” he said. “It is my hope, and quite frankly my expectation, that reasonable medical judgment will still be something that is respected in terms of when doctors decide what poses a threat to the life of the mother and when a pregnancy is medically futile, and that the standards of care will be followed in those circumstances.”

The clinic and medical students group are represented by Ellie Schilling of Schonekas, Evans, McGoey & McEachin LLC; Joanna Wright of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP; and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Landry’s office also is represented by Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert LLC.

The case is June Med. Servs., LLC v. Landry, La. Dist. Ct., No. C-720988, released 7/21/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Kay in Miami at jkay@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com