“We still get a lot of desperate calls from women who are angry or sobbing,” said Kathaleen Pittman, who runs an abortion clinic at Hope Medical Group in Shreveport, La. “They seem so down because they’ve been trying to access care and in a moment it’s available in a couple of weeks. It may not be available here in the next minute.”
Monday’s hearing was the latest step in a lawsuit by abortion providers who have challenged the state’s trigger law as “vaguely constitutional.” A judge in Baton Rouge asked both sides of the lawsuit to file new documents by Tuesday morning before deciding whether to issue an injunction that would prevent the state’s near-total abortion ban from taking effect until a judges panel rules on the merits the case decides, which can take weeks.
The laws “do not clearly define what behavior is illegal and what behavior is permissible,” said Joanna Wright, an attorney representing abortion providers challenging Louisiana’s abortion restrictions. “And the Louisiana state constitution requires criminal statutes to properly disclose what is illegal and what is not.”
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision in late June, the plaintiffs sought an injunction that would allow abortion providers to continue offering their services during the remainder of the case. That order was granted on June 27, but was then reversed on July 8 when the lawsuit was moved to another jurisdiction. For a few days, abortion was illegal throughout Louisiana.
Another judge issued a second injunction last week, once again suspending the state’s abortion ban.
“When we were granted the latest [temporary restraining order] – I don’t know how to describe the staff other than dizziness,” Pittman said. “The relief was palpable here.”
After the first restraining order expired, doctors at the Pittman Clinic continued to meet with prospective patients, offering counseling, ultrasounds, and initial consultations. However, patients were denied access to abortions while the courts temporarily considered the application block the ban.
“Some of these women had been waiting for weeks or even months,” Pittman said.
Hope Medical Group had a waiting list of 300 to 500 patients before the Supreme Court ruled to overturn federal protections roe. Many patients who had scheduled abortions shortly after the Supreme Court decision had their appointments canceled because the clinic suspended the procedure for several days because of the state trigger law. Some were able to reschedule after the court blocked the withdrawal ban – but abortions were reinstated after the first restraining order expired.
A judge issued a second injunction, and Pittman’s clinic resumed performing abortions on Thursday.
“Some of the women we’re seeing today have already had appointments canceled twice,” Pittman said Thursday, the first morning her clinic was able to perform abortions after the second restraining order went into effect.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has tried to keep patients from seeking abortions even as the state ban is blocked by the courts. As some clinics resumed service after the second restraining order went into effect, Landry tweeted a “reminder.”
“Louisiana’s anti-abortion laws were not enacted” he wrote. “With certain exceptions, abortion remains a criminal offense in our state! Anyone who performs abortions is guilty if the case is settled in favor of the laws of our state.”
However, legal experts say criminal laws do not typically apply to acts that took place when those laws were blocked by the courts.
“Most people would tell you there’s a real repercussion issue there,” said Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “You can’t apply a criminal law to a vendor who was operating under a TRO or an injunction that didn’t exist at the time.”
Landry also criticized the court for temporarily blocking enforcement of state abortion laws, which have been supported “time and time again at the ballot box and through their elected legislature.”
“For the judiciary to create a legal circus is disappointing and discredits the institutions we rely on for a stable society,” Landry said tweeted shortly after a judge issued the second restraining order. “The rule of law must be obeyed and I will not rest until it is. Unfortunately, we still have to wait a little longer for that.”
The judge may decide later this week whether to continue blocking Louisiana’s trigger law banning abortion while the case makes its way through the courts. Unless the law is blocked, the state’s three abortion clinics will have to close their doors to patients, Pittman said.
“We absolutely need this restraining order,” Pittman said.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/07/18/louisiana-abortion-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_national The Louisiana judge will decide whether to continue blocking the abortion ban