Abortion-Rights Groups Praise Decision on La. Clinic Rules, Worry About Future Changes

February 6, 2014 — Abortion-rights supporters on Tuesday rallied outside the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to voice their thoughts on the state's plans to revise abortion clinic regulations, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Deslatte, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/4).

On Monday, Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration announced that it had rescinded previously proposed regulations out of concern that unclear language would have left the state vulnerable to a legal challenge. The state plans to release revised rules at a later date.

The regulations would have required abortion clinics to include larger rooms in new or renovated facilities and hire more specialized staff members, while making it more difficult for a clinic that has lost its license to appeal the decision. The rules originally also included a requirement that a women undergo a blood test 30 days prior to an abortion, but the Jindal administration last week said it would drop that requirement amid controversy over the rule.

If implemented, the original rules could have threatened to close the state's five abortion clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/4).

Tuesday's Rally

On Tuesday, about three dozen abortion-rights supporters gathered in front of DHH and presented more than 6,000 written comments.

Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans attorney who is counseling the state's abortion clinics, said, "We would hope that if they do intend to revise [the rules] that they would work with the providers on regulations that are common sense" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/4).

Bethany Van Kampen, a board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, said abortion-rights supporters "were heard" when the rules were rescinded, but she cautioned, "This is far from over." She said there would be another protest if the revised rules are similar to the original ones.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Right to Life Federation Executive Director Benjamin Clapper said DHHS "was wise to step back to make sure they could withstand legal challenges," adding that the revised rules will "look much better the second time around ... as they modify and improve our abortion facility regulations" (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 2/5).