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.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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