The following comes from a May 21 story in the New York Times.
The Louisiana State Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that could force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to close, echoing rules passed in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas and raising the possibility of drastically reduced access to abortion across a broad stretch of the South.
The new rules passed by Republican legislatures require that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a provision likely to shut down many abortion clinics across the region. Legal experts say the legislation is raising a fundamental question: At what point is access to abortion so limited that it violates the right to the procedure granted by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade?
When a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, heard arguments on Mississippi’s law in April, a lawyer for the state said that although the law would force the state’s sole abortion clinic to close, abortion providers were available in neighboring states. One of the judges, Stephen A. Higginson, responded by bringing up a possibility that has since become reality.
“Alabama has passed a law,” he said. “Louisiana is considering one. So then what?”
The requirement that doctors have admitting privileges has emerged as a new tactic of the anti-abortion movement, which says it is intended to protect women’s health. But major medical groups have said that the rule has no bearing on safety since, in the rare cases of emergency, hospitals will accept and treat women experiencing complications from abortion regardless. Abortion providers and many medical experts call the requirement a thinly disguised effort to shut down clinics and undermine the right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.
“With similar restrictions passed in neighboring states over the objection of leading medical experts, we are deeply concerned that women in a vast stretch of this country are in real danger of losing the ability to access legal abortion safely,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tanya Britton, a board member for Pro-Life Mississippi, said the laws enacted in her state and others, including the admitting-privilege requirement, were intended not just to make abortion safer but to end them.
“These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion in our country,” she said. “It’s part of it, and one day, our country will be abortion free.”
The Louisiana House of Representatives passed the legislation on Wednesday by an 88-to-5 vote. The bill passed the State Senate last week. Declaring his intention to sign the measure, Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, called it “a common-sense bill that gives women the health and safety protections they deserve.”
Similar provisions have already taken effect in Texas, causing more than a dozen abortion clinics to close and forcing some women in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley to drive 150 miles to the nearest clinic. The Fifth Circuit court held that the rule, and the closings, did not constitute an unconstitutional burden on the right to abortion because about 20 clinics remained open in the state.
An admitting-privilege law that passed in 2012 in Mississippi and that could force its only abortion center to close was stayed by a federal court; the Fifth Circuit is considering whether the hardship imposed in that state would be so much greater than in Texas that it violates the “undue burden” standard.
Alabama’s 2013 admitting-requirement law has also been stayed by a federal district judge, and a trial on the issue is now underway. Clinic directors say that three of the state’s five abortion providers could be shuttered.
If the Louisiana law is not blocked, “it is very likely that three out of five of the clinics will close,” and possibly four of them, said Ellie Schilling, a lawyer in New Orleans who advises the clinics….
Legislators in another state bordering Texas, Oklahoma, also appear poised to adopt an admitting-privilege requirement that, if enforced, could shutter two or three of that state’s five abortion providers, according to Planned Parenthood.
And another Texas law with an even wider potential impact is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 and is now under challenge in court. Again in the name of patient protection, the state is imposing stringent, costly new building and equipment requirements on abortion clinics that owners say could reduce the number of operating clinics to fewer than 10….
To read the entire story, click here.