BATON ROUGE, La. — Staff at Louisiana’s abortion clinics spent Monday calling patients to cancel procedures and direct them to resources in other states as Louisiana’s near total abortion ban is once-again in effect.
For weeks, access to abortion in Louisiana has been flickering — with the state’s three clinics relying on rulings and temporary restraining orders, that allowed them to continue operations. But procedures came to a screeching halt Friday afternoon after an appeals court ruled that Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry can enforce the ban while ongoing legal challenges play out in court.
“Once again, politics has superseded medical expertise and commonsense,” Amy Irvin, a spokeswoman for abortion clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, said Monday. “We remain hopeful that the Court will ultimately act with compassion and empathy on behalf of women seeking abortion in Louisiana.”
Staff at the clinics in southern Louisiana were working to notify 120 patients, scheduled for appointments this week, about the ban being enforced once again. Not only are patients being directed to clinics outside of the state, but Irvin said the clinics also are looking to relocate to a state “that respects and values women’s bodily autonomy.”
Additionally, staff at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport — which is at the center of the legal challenge — are still providing help.
“We are not providing abortions, but we are not closed,” Kathaleen Pittman, director of the northern Louisiana clinic, said Monday. “We are manning the phones and trying to help people navigate care as best we can within the limits of the law as we consider our options.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to end constitutional protections for abortion, Louisiana’s ban has taken effect and been blocked multiple times. Since then, 249 abortions have been reported to the Louisiana Department of Health, according to data released last week.
On July 21, state Judge Donald Johnson issued a preliminary injunction that allowed clinics to continue providing abortions while a lawsuit over the ban continued. However, just eight days later, Landry took the fight to enforce the ban to a state appeals court - which ruled in his favor.
The ban went into effect later that same day, the third time the ban has gone into effect. It does not have exceptions for rape or incest.
Joanna Wright, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was “disappointing” that the First Circuit ruled without first allowing plaintiffs an opportunity to file opposition to the motion. She said the court “essentially eliminated critical health care services in the state.”
While the plaintiffs don’t deny the state can now ban abortion, they argue that the law’s provisions are contradictory and unconstitutionally vague.