BATON ROUGE — After a federal judge recently struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, pro-choice advocates hope lawmakers will switch their focus to real issues that impact the health and wellbeing of their constituents.

“Louisiana has some of the lowest health outcomes in the country, particularly related to maternal and child health,” Jessie Nieblas, a New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF) board member, told the Louisiana Record. “Legislators should focus on these critical issues and trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision against a similar abortion law in Texas, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles in Baton Rouge ruled on April 26 to dismiss the Louisiana law. He said the law did not contain any evidence that complications would have been avoided if doctors had admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

“The New Orleans Abortion Fund applauds the decision to respect medical best practices and recognize the importance of safe and accessible abortion care,” Nieblas said. “The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as other respected institutions, oppose admitting privilege requirements due to the extremely safe nature of abortion care, the difficulty in obtaining such privileges and the burden it places on patients when clinics are forced to close.”

Previously, Judge deGravelles had barred the state from enforcing the law in a preliminary opinion, citing it as unconstitutional. After a federal appeals court overruled his opinion, the state agreed to wait on enforcement. The nation’s highest court then overturned the same appeals court's decision that upheld the Texas law.

Supporters of the law have said it was crucial for abortion providers to be able to admit patients to nearby hospitals in case of medical emergencies. Opponents have said the law was a ruse used to make it virtually impossible for women to obtain safe abortions in the state.  

Nieblas hopes this court ruling will be eye-openers for courts in other states where similar anti-abortion laws are on the books.

“Across the country, well-funded anti-choice organizations have passed a multitude of similar laws at the state level,” Nieblas said. “These laws disproportionately impact low-income women, women in rural communities, women of color and transgender and gender non-conforming people. NOAF hopes that these and other TRAP [targeted regulation of abortion providers] laws will be challenged nationwide.”

The court ruling likely won’t result in the openings of more clinics. Currently, there are three abortion clinics in Louisiana.

“The importance of safe and accessible abortion care in Louisiana cannot be overstated," Nieblas said. "Thousands of patients seek abortions in our state every year. The Louisiana Department of Health, however, has established regulations that make it nearly impossible to open a clinic, transfer ownership, or carry out other tasks that would allow a clinic to open. In order to secure care for Louisiana women, these bureaucratic regulations must also be challenged.”

In addition, the organization also is encouraged by the Louisiana Department of Health’s finding on HCR 87, a resolution introduced by Louisiana lawmakers last year that asked the department to study the so-called "abortion reversal" procedure. The department determined that "neither sufficient evidence nor a scientific basis to conclude that the effects of an abortion induced with drugs or chemicals can be reversed."

“The report puts lawmakers on notice and affirms the importance of citing credible, scientific evidence in creating healthcare policy for its citizens,” Nieblas said.

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