Federal Judge Rules La. Abortion Liability Law Unconstitutional

March 30, 2012 — A federal judge on March 1 struck down a 1997 Louisiana law (R.S. 9:2800.12) that allowed lawsuits to proceed against abortion providers without first undergoing a review process required for cases against other types of doctors, the AP/NECN reports. On Thursday, an order was released to formally block the law from being enforced.

Under Louisiana malpractice laws, lawsuits cannot go to trial until they are reviewed by a state medical malpractice board to determine if the doctor was negligent or provided poor care. The state limits monetary awards in such suits to $500,000, according to the AP/NECN.

The 1997 law amended the state's liability law -- which does not cap monetary awards -- to allow suits alleging damages from an abortion to go directly to trial.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan ruled that the law was unconstitutionally vague and would impose an undue burden on women seeking abortion care by forcing responsible abortion providers out of business.

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law in 2007 on behalf of two doctors and five clinics after a medical malpractice review board refused to hear a negligence suit against an abortion provider. While CRR's case was pending, the state's Patient Compensation Fund reviewed the allegations against the provider and found no negligence had occurred (AP/NECN, 3/29).