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La. agrees to postpone enforcement of abortion restrictions pending court ruling

July 25, 2016 — Louisiana officials on Friday said they would not enforce multiple state abortion restrictions pending a federal court decision on a lawsuit challenging the antiabortion-rights laws, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

All of the laws challenged in the suit were scheduled to take effect Aug. 1 (McGill, AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/22).

Background

Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed the suit in federal court on behalf of two abortion clinics and three providers in Louisiana. The legal challenge follows last month's Supreme Court ruling, which held that medically unnecessary antiabortion-rights provisions in Texas' HB 2 imposed an undue burden on women's access to abortion care.

In the Louisiana lawsuit, the abortion providers and clinics are challenging various state restrictions, including a law (Act 97) that extends the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. The law does not apply to women who live 150 miles or more from their nearest abortion clinic. However, those women still are required to delay care for at least 24 hours after the initial visit.

The plaintiffs also are challenging a ban (HB 1081) on a medically proven method of abortion and a measure (HB 815) requiring fetal tissue resulting from abortion to be buried or cremated. The providers also are challenging legislation that bars state and local government agencies from funding abortion clinics or organizations that contract with them.

In addition, the providers and clinics are challenging a measure (Act 98) that imposes new certification requirements on abortion providers. Under the law, abortion providers will be required to be board certified or certifiable in either family medicine or OB-GYN. Medical students in OB-GYN or family medicine residency programs will be allowed to provide abortion care only under the "direct supervision" of a board-certified physician.

In the suit, the clinics and providers called the mandatory delay law "an affront to the dignity and autonomy of women" that "imposes mental hardship and suffering, sorrow, and nervousness." The suit also stated the funding restriction "imposes a legal stigma on abortion clinics, isolating them by singling them out to Louisiana businesses as uniquely unqualified entities with whom to contract" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/5).

Latest developments

Last week, state officials filed materials with U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Bourgeois Jr., requesting additional time to assess the legal challenge and agreeing not to enforce the laws until the court issues a decision in the lawsuit. According to the AP/Bee, the court is not expected to release a decision for several months.

On Friday, Bourgeois signed a court order granting Louisiana officials until Dec. 16 to respond to CRR's legal challenge (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/22).