Complex Health Dept. Regulations Threaten La. Abortion Clinics

January 30, 2014 — New Louisiana rules for abortion clinics could make it difficult for any of the state's five clinics to stay open, abortion-rights supporters say, the AP/Washington Times reports.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the new rules are meant to clarify licensing requirements, consolidate those requirements into one section of state code and comply with new legislation. A public hearing on the proposed rules is set for Feb. 4.

However, abortion-rights supporters said the new rules go beyond legislative requirements and seem aimed at making it difficult for the clinics to stay in business.

Impact on Clinics

Louisiana already has some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country, according to the AP/Times. The five clinics the new regulations would affect are located in Baton Rouge, Bossier City, Shreveport and the New Orleans area, where Planned Parenthood is currently trying to build a clinic.

Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans attorney counseling the state's abortion clinics, said that the 20 pages of rules include square footage and staffing requirements and remove some of clinics' appeals rights.

Current regulations adequately protect patients' safety, Schilling said, adding that now "DHH has basically given itself a whole arsenal of medically unnecessary and arbitrary rules that it can cite facilities for." For example, if a clinic moves to a new location or makes management changes, it has to reapply for a license.

Schilling said that it "seems clear that their intent is to shut clinics down" and that the newly enacted legislation "gives them so many ways to do it."

Change to Blood Test Requirements

The rules originally would have required that a pregnant woman receive a blood test 30 days prior to seeking an abortion.

DHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins said the provision's phrasing was wrong and that it would be removed.

"The intent was to say that blood test results be provided to facilities at least 24 hours prior to a procedure being done to give time for doctors to clinically review lab results," she said (Deslatte, AP/Washington Times, 1/29).