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Federal judge strikes down portion of Louisiana abortion law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana [official website] ruled [opnion, PDF] Tuesday that part of an abortion law requiring hospital admitting privileges for doctors who provide abortions is unconstitutional. Section A(2)(a) of Act 620 [text, PDF] mandates that a doctor have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of where an abortion is being performed. Judge John deGravelles left in place a temporary injunction [JURIST report], meaning that the state is only allowed to enforce the other parts of the act. DeGravelles agreed with physicians that the bill served as means to obstruct abortion practices instead of protect women's health because other medical personnel who perform non-abortion procedures were not required to obtain privileges in order to practice. The judge held that limiting abortion access in such a manner would have dire consequences on women's health and rights:

The Court therefore finds that Act 620, acting in concert with existing Louisiana law on abortion and Louisiana law and practice as it pertains to hospital admitting privileges, is facially unconstitutional in placing an undue burden on the right of a large fraction of Louisiana women to an abortion. ... A preliminary injunction will preserve the status quo, and permit the clinics and physicians to continue to provide safe, needed abortion care to their patients. The substantial injury threatened by enforcement of the Act—namely irreparable harm to women and the violation of their constitutional rights—clearly outweighs the impact of an injunction on Defendant.
The Louisiana Attorney General expressed disappointment [press release] and plans to appeal the ruling.

Abortion procedures and reproductive rights issues [JURIST backgrounder] have been heated topics throughout the US. In November the US Supreme Court agreed to decide [JURIST report] whether a similar Texas law [HB 2] passed in 2013 imposes an undue burden on the availability of abortion services in the state. Specifically, the court will review the constitutionality of two restrictions [SCOTUSblog report] on abortion clinics under HB 2: one requiring hospital admitting privileges for doctors performing abortions and a second requiring abortion clinics to have the same facilities as a surgical center. It is estimated that 32 clinics would close if the legislation is fully implemented, leaving Texas with 10 abortion clinics. In June the Supreme Court granted a motion to stay [JURIST report] and temporarily blocked provisions of HB 2 from taking effect. The court will likely rule in this case by the end of June.

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