Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2019 / 12:30 am (CNA).- A Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals has drawn opposition from medical groups and national Democratic politicians, who have filed briefs against it.
Backers of the law say it is a commonsense measure that protects women’s health and supports the dignity of life. Opponents argue that it places an undue obstacle on women seeking an abortion.
In October the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. When then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed the bill into law in 2014, it was promptly challenged in court.
The requirement could shut down at least two of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics, the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights has said.
Louisiana state officials are defending the bill.
“Women deserve better than incompetent providers that put profits over people,” Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill told National Public Radio.
However, foes of the law have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiff, the Shreveport-based abortion clinic June Medical Services.
Among the groups signing on to one amicus brief were the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The medical groups’ brief said the Louisiana law is similar to the Texas law struck down in the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
In the Hellerstedt case, the court ruled that the Texas law created an “undue burden” on abortion access in the state, as it had decided in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that state abortion laws could not pose such an obstacle.
The Supreme Court faulted the Texas law, which required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges. A “working arrangement” was already in place between hospitals and abortion clinics in the state, the court found. The provision could have meant the closure of around half the clinics in Texas.
While a district court permanently barred the Louisiana law from taking effect, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court overturned that decision in January. It ruled the law was sufficiently different from that of Texas. Unlike Texas, few Louisiana hospitals require doctors to see a minimum number of patients. While most abortion clinics in Texas would have closed because of the law, only one doctor at one Louisiana abortion clinic is unable to obtain privileges.
In February, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked Louisiana’s law from taking effect.
In response, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said that the law simply required “basic health standards” of abortion clinics. He said that the court’s stay, together with the abortion industry fighting the law, are “further evidence of how abortion extremism actively works against the welfare of women.”
State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe who sponsored the Louisiana legislation, in October said the case concerns whether a state is able “to enforce its duly enacted laws aimed at protecting the health and safety of its citizens.”
“Together with my colleagues, our legislature passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act by a wide bipartisan margin to protect the health and safety of women,” she said, according to the Baton Rouge-based newspaper The Advocate. “Abortion has known medical risks, and the women of this state who are often coerced into abortion deserve to have the same standard of care required for other surgical procedures.”
Though the legislation sponsor is a Democrat, national Democratic leaders have weighed in against the bill. Nearly 200 Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have submitted a brief opposing the Louisiana law, National Public Radio reports.
The American Bar Association has also filed an amicus brief against the Louisiana law. It objected that the law is contrary to existing pro-abortion precedent and the case “raises significant concerns about adherence to basic rule of law principles.”
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a Florida-based radiologist who is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, in October told CNA the law did nothing more than provide commonsense protections for women’s health.
The law “ensures that women suffering from dangerous complications do not show up at emergency rooms where doctors who don’t know them can only guess at the surgical intervention that was done at the abortion facility,” she said.
Louisiana law currently bars abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy and requires a 24-hour waiting period between the first consultation and the abortion procedure.
Two other Louisiana laws restricting abortion could take effect, pending judicial decisions regarding similar Mississippi laws: a restriction on abortion to 15 weeks into pregnancy; or when a fetal heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks into pregnancy.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed both laws and cited his pro-life positions in his recent successful re-election campaign.