Center for Reproductive Rights challenges Louisiana's Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law

By Sara McCleary | Jul 25, 2017

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s 2001 Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law (OAFLL).

NEW ORLEANS – The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s 2001 Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law (OAFLL).

To discuss the case, Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill appeared on "Washington Watch" with Tony Perkins. During the broadcast, Murrill emphasized her willingness to fight the lawsuit. “We think these laws are constitutional and we don’t really see any difference in this particular lawsuit and the lawsuit that was dismissed that was filed by the same plaintiffs a couple of years ago against the state,” Murrill said.

During their conversation, Perkins asks why the group is challenging the law now, 16 years after it was enacted. “I think that they are working very diligently, not just in our state but in other states, to try and expand the Hellerstedt opinion,” Murrill said. “If you read that petition and go back and look at that opinion they’re picking up on some of the -- they’re tracking some of the similar factual allegations to try and expand the scope of Hellerstedt.”

However, David Brown, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, answered the question more fully. 

“In the years since the law went into effect, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has enacted over 1,000 medically unnecessary requirements that abortion facilities must follow to get and keep the license required by OAFLL,” Brown told the Louisiana Record. “LDH has also engaged in a pattern of arbitrary enforcement of those requirements - among other things, government surveyors engage in warrantless inspections of patient records with no protections for patient privacy. 

"The Supreme Court in last year’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt made very clear that abortion restrictions based on junk science are unconstitutional. Our clients gave the state a year to put its house in order by aligning their enforcement of OAFLL to respect Louisiana women’s constitutional rights. The state chose not to.”

Although other states are seeking to expand the Hellerstedt opinion, Brown saidLouisiana’s abortion laws are some of the toughest in the United States. 

“Most states do not require doctors who offer abortion care to obtain a license, any more than they would require a license for doctors to offer any other kind of basic health care, like colonoscopies or treating the flu,” he said. “Of the states that do, few if any have the extreme combination of over 1,000 individual requirements and unlimited government intrusion into patients’ private information that Louisiana has. Federal courts have struck down some other states’ efforts to implement such schemes, such as Arizona’s in 2004.”

Murrill and Perkins also discussed other legal proceedings against the state for its abortion laws. 

“We are currently defending what we believe to be the largest challenge that we’ve seen,” Murrill said. “Last summer, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed against the state on seven new laws that had been passed by the legislature in the 2016 regular session. So those laws included the licensing requirements for doctors that required them to be family medicine docs or OBGYNs, prohibitions on trafficking fetal tissue and remains, criminal penalties for trafficking human remains, cremation and burial requirements, funding restrictions, a 72-hour waiting period, and a dismemberment ban. So we’re litigating all of those, and we were in court about ten days ago, arguing motions to dismiss on that suit.”

The United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in June 2016 in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. It ruled that neither of Texas’s abortion regulations in question “offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access… and each violates the federal Constitution.”

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