Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion services clinic in Shreveport, has filed a lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s abortion ban. (Julie O’Donoghue/Louisiana Illuminator)
NEW ORLEANS — A Orleans Parish judge has removed a temporary order blocking Louisiana’s ban on nearly all abortions from taking effect while moving a lawsuit that challenges the state’s abortion law to Baton Rouge.
Judge Ethel Julien’s decision effectively closes the three clinics in Louisiana that provide abortion services. Facilities in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport had reopened despite the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a nearly 50-year-old ruling in Roe v. Wade that established the right to an abortion was protected in the Constitution.
After the Supreme Court’s decision June 24, Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport and a group New Orleans medical students in support of abortion rights filed a lawsuit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court that argues Louisiana’s abortion laws are contradictory and unclear. The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order to stop the law from being enforced until their case was heard.
An attorney representing Attorney General Jeff Landry, John Balhoff, successfully argued that Orleans Parish was the wrong venue for the case, as lawsuits against state officials should be filed in the parish where the officials conduct their administrative duties. Balhoff said that unless and until Landry intervenes to enforce the state’s abortion ban in Orleans, there is no cause of action in the parish.
Ellie Schilling, the primary lawyer representing the plaintiffs, argued that Landry has indicated that he will imminently begin enforcing the law in Orleans Parish, as its district attorney, Jason Williams, is the most likely to refuse to enforce the laws.
While Julien sided with Landry on the matter of venue, she declined to rule on the merits of the case.
Schilling said that the goal of the group is to enjoin Landry from “causing chaos, fear, and enacting arbitrary enforcement” of the state’s abortion ban, pointing to conflicting language on the punishments for physicians who violate the laws and confusion over who is tasked with enforcement.
Schilling asked that Julien extend the temporary restraining order until the case can be heard in Baton Rouge, but the judge declined, as she had already moved to transfer the case to another jurisdiction.
“I do not have that right,” Julien said.
Amy Irvin, a spokesperson for the New Orleans and Baton Rouge abortion clinics, said that the two clinics will stop providing abortions pending another restraining order. Irvin said the clinics took care not to schedule any procedures Friday due to the possibility.
At a post-hearing press conference, Landry said that the case a mounted to a “traveling legal circus” and that he would continue to defend the state’s abortion laws.
Landry said that the case prevented his office from being able to provide clarifications to physicians on ambiguity in the laws and added that he would be better able to do his job “if everyone would simply respect the legislature and the constitution.”
“If you don’t like the laws of the states, you can move to one under which you like,” Landry said. “That’s the greatness of America.”
A hearing date has not yet been set for the case.
This is a developing story. Check back for more details.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.