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La. Admitting Privileges Bill Could Further Cripple Abortion Access in the South

La. Admitting Privileges Bill Could Further Cripple Abortion Access in the South

May 22, 2014 — The Louisiana House on Wednesday passed a bill (HB 388) that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a mandate that could severely limit abortion access across a "broad stretch" of the South because of similar laws in neighboring states, the New York Times reports.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) indicated that he plans to sign the measure (Alford/Eckholm, New York Times, 5/21). The bill passed the state House 88-5 and would take effect on Sept. 1 if Jindal signs it.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the measure could close up to four of the state's five abortion clinics (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/22).

Other Provisions

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D), also would create a database that would contain anonymous statistics on the number of abortions performed in the state.

The measure also would require physicians who provide abortions only occasionally to acquire a license from the state if they perform more than five abortions annually, up from more than five monthly under current rules. The doctors' names, locations and status as an abortion provider would be public information.

Further, the bill would extend the state's restrictions on surgical abortions to apply to medication abortions. For example, women seeking medication abortions would face a mandatory delay of 24 hours after requesting the drugs. Medication abortions also would have to be reported to the state Department of Health and Hospitals under the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/9).

Regional Implications

If the Louisiana measure becomes law, women in New Orleans would be almost 300 miles away from the nearest abortion clinics if similar admitting privileges requirements in Alabama and Mississippi (HB 1390) take effect, the Times reports. Texas also has enacted similar requirements.

The admitting privileges requirements in Alabama and Mississippi have been stayed while lawsuits over their constitutionality continue in court (New York Times, 5/21).

Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans attorney who advises Louisiana clinics, said that the Louisiana admitting privileges requirement also likely would be challenged in court.

She added that although the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas' admitting privileges measure, the decision does not necessarily mean that Louisiana's would also pass muster, given that Louisiana has far fewer clinics than Texas. "On the whole 5th circuit spectrum, Louisiana is [going] to be in the middle, between Mississippi" -- which just has one clinic -- "and Texas," she said (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/21).

Reaction

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, "With similar restrictions passed in neighboring states over the objection of leading medical experts, we are deeply concerned that women in a vast stretch of this country are in real danger of losing the ability to access legal abortion safely."

Meanwhile, Pro-Life Mississippi board member Tanya Britton said, "These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion in our country" (New York Times, 5/21).