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Louisiana commission halts $39 million to New Orleans S&WB for abortion ban defiance

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he would push for funding to be withheld to the city after elected leaders said they wouldn't enforce abortion laws.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's Bond Commission agreed to withhold a $39 million line of credit to the Sewerage & Water Board New Orleans due to the city's defiance of the state's abortion ban 'trigger law.'

The 12-2 vote was first reported by Melinda Deslatte with Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana. Deslatte reports that the S&WBNO project was the only project singled out, even after the commission approved millions of dollars in financing for other New Orleans projects.

"It is disappointing and appalling that the Louisiana Bond Commission decided to halt funding for one of the most vital and valuable infrastructure projects, despite the fact that the right to an abortion remains legal statewide," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "What also remains is the fact that we are in the middle of another above-average hurricane season, in which this city needs its entire Sewerage and Water Board system performing at its peak in order to protect vital assets, businesses and residents from flooding."

The line-of-credit is intended for a the S&WB's new power plant. Deslatte said the withheld $39 million will be considered again next month.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he would push for funding to be withheld to the city after the New Orleans City Council, mayor, police chief, district attorney and sheriff all said they would not enforce the state's abortion laws.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne called holding up the project "ridiculous" and argued that New Orleans has not broken any laws because the "trigger law" banning abortion has been blocked by a district judge.

"I do believe we're playing politics with this, and I don't like it," Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder said. Despite criticizing the proposal by Landry, Schroder went along with the decision, Deslatte said.

Deslatte reports that Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin supported withholding the money, adding that elected leaders who said they would not comply with the ban "should be impeached." Ardoin added that he was okay with "sending a message" to New Orleans leaders.

On Thursday, a state district judge in Baton Rouge ordered that abortion clinics in Louisiana can continue operating until a lawsuit challenging the state’s near total ban on abortions is resolved

The order from state district judge Donald Johnson in Baton Rouge is the latest development amid a flurry of court challenges to state “trigger” laws that were crafted in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights, which it did on June 24.

For weeks, access to abortion has been flickering in Louisiana where there are three clinics. A statewide abortion ban has taken effect twice and been blocked twice since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. Johnson had entered a temporary hold on enforcement July 11, pending arguments in the case that were heard Monday.                            

Johnson's new ruling allows clinics to continue providing abortion procedures while a lawsuit filed by a north Louisiana abortion clinic and others continues.

Following the bond commission's vote, Landry issued the following statement:

"“Today, our Bond Commission forced elected officials in New Orleans to decide if they will enforce State law. The same folks who have turned the Crescent City into America’s murder capital by refusing to prosecute violent crime must now choose whether they prioritize playing partisan politics over granting basic amenities for their constituents. I hope they come before the Bond Commission to explain why New Orleans should continue to receive millions of taxpayer dollars while refusing to comply with the laws enacted by our Legislature as required by our State Constitution.”

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