Federal Courts and Louisiana Legislature Attack Women’s Rights

Michael Chen, General Associate

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As of this Monday, abortion physicians throughout the state of Louisiana are required to obtain “admitting privileges” from nearby hospitals thanks to Louisiana House Bill 388: Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, otherwise known as Act 620.

Authored by Katrina Jackson, a democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from the 16th district, this act was passed in 2014 by an 88-5 vote in the Louisiana House and a 34-3 vote in the Senate. In its enactment, this bill presents a great danger to the fundamental rights of Louisianans.

According to the Bioethics Defense Fund, a “pro-life public-interest legal and educational organization” whose mission is to “put law in the service of human life by strategically advocating for the restoration of the fundamental human right to life,” this bill was meant to be “a ‘Texas Plus’ model bill” which “includes the Texas language upheld by the Fifth Circuit, along with enhanced features.” Texas, currently, already holds “some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.”

While the constitutionality of the bill was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the United States Circuit Court Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in Louisiana’s favor in September 2018 and rejected a request for a rehearing this month. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry gleefully applauded the Court’s decision, saying that “Act 620 is a common-sense measure that ensures women will receive proper care if they have complications.”

By allowing for the removal of abortion clinics in the state of Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit permitted the state to commit a blatant and disgusting attack on pregnant people by imposing undue burdens on their natural and constitutional rights to terminate a pregnancy as found in Roe v. Wade.

While components of the bill copied, if not also intensified Texas’ strictness on abortions, we must remember that the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down the Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill H.B. 2 that requires admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements with a 5-3 ruling, in part due to the undue burdens that these requirements would bring.

In her majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared that “it is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

Healthcare, from treating the common cold to abortions, should always be both easy to seek and easy to afford for American citizens. While state governments are allowed to regulate abortions due to Roe v. Wade, removing abortion clinics makes seeking medical treatment more difficult to obtain, a standard declared unacceptable by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Pregnant people in those states which do not have an adequate amount of abortion clinics may have ventured to one in Louisiana. The removal of this opportunity infringes the constitutional right due to time and cost constraints, and further puts a heavy burden on doctors by requiring them to travel to hospitals.

While Texas’ bill was overturned, most of its abortion clinics were already shut down by the time the high court made its decision. Here in Louisiana, the same circumstance must not be allowed to happen. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency motion with the United States Supreme Court on Jan. 25 reminding us that the danger that the Louisiana House of Representatives flagrantly imposed upon reproductive rights should neither be ignored nor forgotten.

Current Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, once the minority leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives, voted in favor of the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act back in 2014. While Edwards has pursued efforts to drastically increase healthcare access across the state, his virtues of restricting access to abortion should be questioned and debated during his reelection campaign as Louisiana’s gubernatorial election this October approaches.