La. ‘trigger law’ on abortion blocked by state court; abortion care to resume

“Our members are outraged and heartbroken by the Supreme Court’s decision.” - Pamela Merritt, executive director of Medical Students for Choice
Hope Medical Group for Women
Hope Medical Group for Women(KSLA)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 10:12 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 11:54 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Louisiana’s “trigger law” has been blocked by a state court in response to the lawsuit filed Monday, June 27, meaning abortion care will resume in the state. A hearing has been set for July 8.

At least one of the state’s three abortion clinics said it would resume performing procedures Tuesday.

“We’re going to do what we can,” said Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport. “It could all come to a screeching halt.”

When KSLA News 12 called Hope Medical Group, a receptionist told us they were trying to serve as many people as possible before the injunction ends.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and Ellie Schilling, filed a petition requesting emergency relief from Louisiana’s “trigger law” in regard to abortion on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport.

Louisiana Right to Life issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“Louisiana’s largest abortion business, Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, has filed a lawsuit against the 2006 Human Life Protection Act, as well as the recent 2022 Reaffirmation of Human Life Act. From reports, it appears a temporary restraining order has been granted. Louisiana Right to Life is confident, however, that in time our pro-life laws will be vindicated.

“Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, made the following statement about the lawsuit:

‘While these matters are still developing, Louisiana law is clear that babies will be protected from abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned. We are confident that our courts, whether at the district, appellate or state Supreme Court level, will affirm our laws in time.

‘It is telling that the Shreveport abortion business filed a lawsuit in Orleans Parish, looking for a district judge who would side with abortion. We are thankful our Attorney General Jeff Landry will vigorously defend our pro-life laws. We look forward to these frivolous lawsuits being dismissed, and Louisiana will continue to work together to protect babies and support moms.’

“Through Louisiana voters, the Love Life Amendment was passed in 2020 to ensure no right to abortion can be found in the Louisiana Constitution.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade on Friday, June 24, Louisiana’s “trigger law” went into effect, meaning abortion immediately became illegal in the state. The emergency relief includes a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the enforcement of the law so clinics can resume providing abortions and patients can access the procedure.

“This TRO is an important win for the many individuals who rely on our clients for critical reproductive care,” said Joanna Wright, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “As impactful as today’s win is, we know it is the first step in a larger process. As our filing made clear, the state’s vaguely written trigger bans do not come close to meeting the requirements of Louisiana’s own Constitution and should not be allowed to stand.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Pittman and Medical Students for Choice, don’t deny that the state can now ban abortion. Instead, they contend that Louisiana now has multiple, conflicting trigger mechanisms in the law.

They also argue that state law is unclear on whether it bans an abortion prior to a fertilized egg implanting in the uterus. And while the law provides an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies in cases of fetuses with lethal abnormalities, the plaintiffs noted the law gives no definition of the term.

They are challenging the constitutionality of the “vague” trigger law, saying it’s impossible to tell whether any of the trigger laws are in effect and, if so, which ones and what conduct would be prohibited, including what exceptions exist for doctors performing abortions to save a pregnant person’s life.

“There is tremendous urgency around this petition and emergency motion as the Dobbs decision has precipitated a tidal wave of canceled appointments and the withdrawal of critical services in states with trigger laws throughout the nation, perhaps none more so than in Louisiana, where the trigger laws are immediately effective,” said a statement from the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Michael Vergis, an attorney in Shreveport-Bossier City, said he believes the Louisiana Legislature will need to step in in order to clear up the confusion.

“My guess is the Legislature is going to be getting together soon and try to hash out some of these details and maybe come up with one law to make it obvious for Louisiana — which I’m sure will be you can’t have an abortion — but perhaps work out some of the details as to exactly, what does that mean.”

[GETTING ANSWERS: Who is most impacted by the decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade?]

“Seeking reproductive care is already difficult in the U.S., and especially in Louisiana,” Pittman said. “Now, as state governments are trying to ban abortion throughout the country, including in Louisiana, my heart is with our patients whose entire lives and future may change based on the next few days. We are committed to this monumental legal challenge – not to perpetuate an endless political battle, but to ensure our patients’ wellbeing and so that they may draw strength from our dedication to this fight.”

[ArkLaTex officials react to SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade]

“For the first time, the Supreme Court has taken away a guaranteed personal liberty right — one that Americans have counted on for generations. A public health emergency is about to engulf the nation. As expected, Louisiana and many other states wasted no time enacting bans and eliminating abortion entirely. People who need an abortion right now are in a state of panic. We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can. Every day that a clinic is open and providing abortion services can make a difference in a person’s life,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Throughout the country, challenges to other trigger laws could be made on the grounds that the conditions to impose the bans have not been met, or that it was improper for a past legislature to bind the current one.

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