Planned Parenthood allowed to proceed with suit against Louisiana
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Planned Parenthood allowed to proceed with suit against Louisiana

The Fifth Circuit ruled Thursday that two Planned Parenthood centers may pursue their claim to make Louisiana’s Department of Health “promptly rule” on one of the center’s applications for a license to operate as an abortion clinic, finding that the case fell under an exception to sovereign immunity.

However, the Fifth Circuit determined that sovereign immunity protects Louisiana from Planned Parenthoods’ attempt to force the state into granting their application. The court stated that under the precedent of the US Supreme Court, “[l]etting a federal court tell state officials how to act under state law” directly conflicts with the federalist principles embodied in the 11th Amendment.

The court also found that the 11th Amendment didn’t bar Planned Parenthood’s prompt consideration claim. While healthcare organizations do not have a right to the abortion license under federal law, they do have the right to proceed with claims that the state officials violated federal law. Planned Parenthood is therefore allowed to assert that Louisiana’s Health Department violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses by conducting “sham” investigations in order to delay the abortion license consideration.

The Fifth Circuit summarized its decision, by stating:

We hold that the plaintiffs’ second requested injunction— directing the Department to ‘promptly rule’ on their application ‘in accordance with all applicable constitutional requirements’ —is not barred . . . because the plaintiffs allege a potential violation of their procedural-due-process rights . . . and because requiring the Department to make a decision on the application and comply with the federal Constitution does not infringe the state’s sovereign immunity. We also hold that the first and third of the plaintiffs’ requested injunctions—directing the Department to ‘not withhold approval’ of their application or ‘grant’ them a license—are barred . . . because there is no free-standing federal right to receive an abortion-clinic license.