NEW ORLEANS – Most of Louisiana’s abortion clinics could be in danger of closing, said an attorney for the clinics, now that Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a bill into law that sets stricter standards for abortion clinics.
“Realistically and unfortunately, many of them will not be able to comply, and at that point clinics will be forced to close,” said Ellie Schilling, attorney for the clinics.
“Today because of our hard work, Louisiana has been declared the most pro-life state in the country year after year,” Jindal said at a press conference in West Monroe where he signed the bill into law.
The most controversial component of the law requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. In other words, a doctor must be an approved member of the hospital’s medical staff and be allowed to use a hospital’s facility in case of an emergency after the procedure.
Opponents say admitting privileges are both difficult to attain and unnecessary for abortions. They say complications are rare, but if a patient does experience an emergency complication, they would simply go to the emergency room.
“This idea that in order to receive emergency care, the doctor who performs your outpatient procedure needs admitting privileges is entirely divorced from the way that medicine is currently practiced in the U.S.,” Schilling said.
But proponents say the new law will make abortions safer and enable any woman who experiences complications to be treated by the doctor who performed the abortion.
“We believe that if a clinic is operating well, it should be able to get those admitting privileges,” said Sarah Zagorski, communications director for Louisiana Right to Life.
The new law could force four of the state’s five abortion clinics to close, including both New Orleans clinics, one in Baton Rouge and possibly one in Bossier City. Currently, a doctor at a Shreveport clinic has admitting privileges in connection with a separate practice, said Schilling.
“This is a sad day for the people of Louisiana because this is going to lead to severe injury and death by removing a safe procedure for millions of people who will need it,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
“We're very excited that Louisiana is now a safer place for women by enacting these common sense regulations,” said Zagorski.
The abortion clinics are already trying to comply with the new law and are applying for admitting privileges at hospitals that meet the law’s criteria. Some hospitals have told clinics not to bother applying, said Schilling, while others opened up the application process.
A similar law in Texas shuttered a third of abortion clinics there. It was ultimately upheld in court.
Now, abortion clinics in Louisiana plan to take legal action.
Louisiana’s law goes into effect Sept. 1.