News Law and Policy

Louisiana Can’t Enforce GOP’s Clinic Closure Law, Court Rules

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The decision keeps in place an early ruling preventing the former Jindal administration from enforcing a Texas-style clinic shutdown law.

A federal district court judge on Tuesday continued to block a Louisiana law that advocates claim would have closed all but one abortion provider in the state.

The ruling comes more than a year after the same court blocked enforcement of Act 620, which required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals.

Former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed Act 620, formerly known as HB 388, into law in June 2014. Reproductive rights advocates challenged the requirement in August, arguing it was impossible to comply with and unduly burdened abortion rights.

The GOP-backed measure provided 81 days for doctors to obtain the required admitting privileges, which can take anywhere from 90 days to seven months to obtain, depending on each hospital’s process.

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“Though today’s ruling is a victory, we know that the existing Louisiana laws regulating abortion care are onerous, medically unnecessary, and impact access to abortion care, particularly for young women, low-income women, and women of color,” Sylvia Cochran, New Orleans Abortion Fund board member, said in a statement. “While we celebrate this ruling, we know that abortion remains inaccessible to many, and we will continue to advocate for access to reproductive health care.”

Tuesday’s ruling comes just two months after the Supreme Court agreed to review a similar Texas clinic shutdown law which advocates claim is poised to leave the nation’s second largest state with ten or fewer abortion clinics.

“Clinic shutdown laws like those in Louisiana and Texas threaten to leave women with a patchwork of rights across the US that is troublingly reminiscent of the days before Roe vWade,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Politicians cannot be allowed to sneak around the constitution and rob women of their ability to obtain safe and legal abortion.”

This is the second reproductive rights challenge before Judge John deGravelles, who issued Tuesday’s order. The judge is also hearing a challenge to efforts by the former Jindal administration to cut Planned Parenthood clinics from the state’s Medicaid program. In November deGravelles issued a temporary order blocking those efforts. That case is on appeal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Republicans Can’t Help But Play Politics With the Judiciary

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Republicans have a good grip on the courts and are fighting hard to keep it that way.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Linda Greenhouse has another don’t-miss column in the New York Times on how the GOP outsourced the judicial nomination process to the National Rifle Association.

Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick has this smart piece on how we know the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest election issue this year: The Republicans refuse to talk about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to fill in the blanks left by “abstinence-centric” sex education and talk to their young patients about issues including sexual consent and gender identity.

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Good news from Alaska, where the state’s supreme court struck down its parental notification law.

Bad news from Virginia, though, where the supreme court struck down Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will leave behind one of the most politicized state supreme courts in modern history.

Turns out all those health gadgets and apps leave their users vulnerable to inadvertently disclosing private health data.

Julie Rovner breaks down the strategies anti-choice advocates are considering after their Supreme Court loss in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.   

Finally, Becca Andrews at Mother Jones writes that Texas intends to keep passing abortion restrictions based on junk science, despite its loss in Whole Woman’s Health.

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.