Federal Court Upholds Louisiana Law Giving Health Department Authority to Quickly Move Against Dangerous Abortion Clinics

By Dave Andrusko

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a law giving the state of Louisiana more discretion to shut down an abortion clinic for safety or health concerns. Although the ruling was issued last week, Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals did not find out until yesterday. Thursday was the same day the Commonwealth of Virginia edged closer to enacting abortion clinic regulations of its own. (See “Virginia Close to Enactment of Abortion Clinic Regulations.”)

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana rejected a claim by five abortion clinics and an abortionist identified only as John Doe that The Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law, “deprives them of basic protections given to other licensed health care facilities in the state and encourages discriminatory enforcement against them,” CNBC.com reported.

Louisiana Right to Life Federation Executive Director Benjamin Clapper explained that Act 490 “gave the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals the authority to protect women and children through the immediate closure of abortion facilities that ‘pose an imminent or immediate threat to the health, welfare, and safety of a patient.’”

In dismissing the lawsuit Bossier City Medical Suite of Texas v. Greenstein, U.S. District Judge James Brady wrote, “The court finds that the Plaintiffs will not suffer any significant hardship. Plaintiffs claim that they will suffer severe hardship because they will be required to make ‘immediate and significant, but unascertainable, changes in their operations.’ However, nothing in Act 490 requires Plaintiffs to alter their conduct; instead, it alters the State’s conduct in detecting and addressing violations.”

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) was co-counsel with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in defending the law, passed in 2010.

“A patient’s health is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “The court was right to reject this attempt to escape common-sense health and safety regulations. If abortionists truly cared about the people who enter their doors, they wouldn’t be attempting to tear down these types of laws.”

The law gives state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein the authority to quickly suspend a license and shut down a clinic if he decides there is an immediate health or safety threat at an abortion clinic.

“To allow an abortion facility with known violations that are likely to pose significant health and safety risks to continue operating would be reprehensible,” Greenstein said in a statement.

“The court’s ruling recognizes that the state has a mandate from its citizens to take steps necessary to safeguard them from dangerous practices in facilities, and we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal necessary to fulfill that mandate,” Greenstein added.

Clapper of the Louisiana RTL Federation said he thanked “Secretary Bruce Greenstein, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and the Alliance Defense Fund for working to safeguard Act 490 in the face of court challenge.” He added, “We look forward to the continual enforcement of Act 490 to ensure Louisiana abortion facilities are not acting outside the common-sense requirements enacted by our legislature and willed by the citizens of our state.”

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