February 2, 2015 — Abortion-rights advocates on Thursday testified at a Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals hearing that the agency has gone too far in its proposed abortion regulations, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/30).
According to the state DHH, the proposed regulations revise current rules to accommodate several recently enacted laws and clearly outline the state's clinic licensing and staffing requirements. If the clinics do not comply, they could face closure. Among other rules, the proposed regulations include requirements that clinics maintain detailed records of "every 'job skill' of every employee" and annual employee evaluations on the specific job skills, according to the AP/Idaho Statesman.
DHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins acknowledged that some of the new requirements "are outside of the specific legislative mandates"(Deslatte, AP/Idaho Statesman, 1/29).
According to the Advocate, DHH accepted public comments on the proposed rules through Jan. 30. Next, the department will address the comments and release a report to the state Legislature's committees on health (Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/30). DHH said it will also consider the public comments made during the hearing (AP/Idaho Statesman, 1/29).
The rules could take effect as early as March 20, the Advocate reports.
According to the Advocate, around 80 people attended the hearing. No speakers who commented on the proposed rules spoke in support of them.
Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans-based attorney who represents abortion clinics, said the proposed "regulations vastly exceed DHH's statutory authority" and mark a "vast overreach to severely overregulate abortions in a punitive way" (Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/30). For example, she said the rules limit clinics' ability to appeal revoked licenses and impose extensive operational requirements and duplicative paperwork requirements.
Such overregulation would make it "very easy then to deprive [clinics] of their license," she added (AP/Idaho Statesman, 1/29). According to the Advocate, Schilling presented letters and petitions containing more than 8,000 signatures of individuals opposed to the proposed requirements.
Schilling also noted that abortion providers in the state are looking into filing a legal challenge against the proposed rules.
Separately, Julie Finger, a New Orleans-based pediatrician, called the proposed rules a "medically unnecessary, unsound, politically motivated and targeted attack on abortion providers." Finger also noted that she has "serious concerns" about the proposal's potential effects on patient-physician privacy rights (Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/30).