In the latest blow to reproductive rights, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted a stay that allows Louisiana officials to effectively shut down all but one of the state’s abortion clinics.
In 2014, June Medical Services, Bossier City Medical Suite, Choice Incorporated of Texas and other unnamed parties sought an injunction to prevent the enforcement of Act 620, which requires that doctors who perform outpatient abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A district court granted the injunction and ruled that the statue was unconstitutional because it placed “an undue burden” on an estimated 70 percent of Louisiana women of reproductive age who might seek an abortion. But the state appealed and then requested an emergency motion to stay the lower court’s injunction until its the appeal is resolved. Yesterday (February 24), a three-judge panel granted that stay, effective immediately.
The case is reminiscent of a previous ruling by the same court, which upheld House Bill 2, a law that shuttered more than a dozen Texas clinics and forced many Latina and Black women to travel to Louisiana for health care.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued the following statement via a press release sent to Colorlines:
This is outrageous. Today’s order will shutter all but one health center in the state, putting women’s health and lives at risk. When a similar law passed in Texas, women were forced to drive hundreds of miles, leave the state, or take matters into their own hands. It is irresponsible to allow this medically unnecessary restriction to go into effect less than a week before the Supreme Court will consider whether this type of law is even constitutional. This cannot be what it means to be a woman in America in 2016.
The ruling comes just one week before the Supreme Court is slated to hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which considers the Texas law. MSNBC reports that Louisiana health care advocates have pledged to seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court:
“We will immediately seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court so these clinics are able to reopen and continue serving the women of Louisiana,” said Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “Whether in Louisiana, Texas, or elsewhere, women should not be forced to run to court year after year to protect their fundamental rights. It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that politicians cannot sneak around the Constitution to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion.”