Thursday, March 29, 2018
Gambit (Mar. 26, 2018): Legislation, lawsuit show push-pull over abortion rights in Louisiana, by Kat Stromquist:
As a legal battle rages over neighboring Mississippi's recent ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, similar legislation and a lawsuit demonstrate ongoing tensions over the right to obtain an abortion in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider two bills that could further restrict abortion access in the state, including a 15-week ban that mirrors the temporarily enjoined Mississippi law. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Center for Choice have filed suit against the Louisiana Department of Health over what the organization says is an unnecessary delay in the processing of an abortion license for its Claiborne Avenue health center in New Orleans.
It's not clear how much support the 15-week ban will attract among Louisiana legislators, but the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. John Milkovich, D-Keithville, has a key ally: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Edwards, a Democrat, opposes abortion and announced on his monthly radio program that he would likely sign a 15-week ban that made it to his desk.
In New Orleans, Planned Parenthood has moved to expand the availability of abortions. In February, the group filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Louisiana Department of Health. Planned Parenthood alleges that the Department is deliberately delaying the processing of its application for an abortion license at its Claiborne Avenue facility. If approved, it would be the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisiana to offer abortion services.
In the absence of a license — and as its lawsuit against the Department of Health proceeds — Planned Parenthood's hands are essentially tied.
Louisiana, which lost one of its few remaining abortion clinics last year, remains a very difficult and hostile environment for abortion rights advocates and for access to abortion care. According to Guttmacher Institute data, there were seven clinics operating in Louisiana in 2011. Today, following year after year of newly enacted state restrictions on abortion providers, there are just three clinics remaining in operation. Planned Parenthood hopes to raise that number to four.