BATON ROUGE (TBEN) — Louisiana abortion clinic staff called patients on Monday to cancel procedures and refer them to sources in other states as Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban is back in effect.
For weeks, access to abortion in Louisiana has flickered — with the state’s three clinics dependent on rulings and temporary restraining orders, allowing them to continue operations. But proceedings stalled Friday afternoon after an appeals court ruled Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry can enforce the ban while pending legal challenges play out in court.
“Once again, politics has replaced medical expertise and common sense,” Amy Irvin, a spokeswoman for abortion clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, said Monday. “We remain hopeful that the Court will ultimately act with compassion and empathy on behalf of women seeking abortions in Louisiana.”
The staff at the clinics in southern Louisiana were working to inform 120 patients, who were due for an appointment this week, of the re-enforcement of the ban. Not only are patients being referred to out-of-state clinics, but Irvin said the clinics also want to move to a state “that respects and values women’s physical autonomy.”
In addition, the staff of Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport – which is central to the legal challenge – continues to provide assistance.
“We don’t perform abortions, but we are not closed,” Kathaleen Pittman, director of the clinic in Norther Louisiana, said Monday. “We’re manning the phones and trying to get people through care as best we can, within the limits of the law, as we consider our options.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to end constitutional protections for abortion, Louisiana’s ban has gone into effect and has been blocked multiple times. Since then, 249 abortions have been reported to the Louisiana Department of Health, according to data released last week.
On July 21, State Judge Donald Johnson issued a preliminary injunction allowing clinics to continue providing abortions while a lawsuit over the ban continued. But just eight days later, Landry took the fight to enforce the ban before a state appeals court — which ruled in his favor.
The ban went into effect later that same day, the third time the ban went into effect. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
Joanna Wright, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was “disappointing” that the First Circuit ruled without first giving plaintiffs a chance to object to the motion. She said the court has “essentially eliminated critical health services in the state”.
While the plaintiffs do not deny that the state can now ban abortion, they argue that the provisions of the law are contradictory and unconstitutionally vague.