UPDATE — Louisiana’s abortion ban is back in effect after a judge lifted a temporary block on the state’s abortion trigger laws.
The Orleans Parish District Court granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) last week in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of June Medical Services, which operates an abortion clinic in Shreveport. The suit challenges the abortion laws that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, leaving the decision up to states on whether to ban abortions.
In the original request for the TRO, CRR called the trigger laws “unconstitutionally vague.”
On Friday, Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms Julien ruled the court challenge to the state’s trigger law must take place in East Baton Rouge Parish, not New Orleans.
Judge Ethel Simms Julien also chose to not extend the block that was allowing Louisiana’s abortion clinics to remain open. The state’s 3 abortion clinics must now close their doors until the case can be heard in Baton Rouge.
“I think today’s judge got it right,” said Landry in a post-hearing interview. “These folks have been venue shopping … This action will be brought into Baton Rouge. We certainly intend to continue to defend the laws of the state and to enforce these laws. … A law, a statute, is always presumed to be constitutional until a court rules otherwise.”
Mayor LaToya Cantrell commented on the judge’s decision, saying:
“Thanks to politically-motivated actions, the lives of women and the freedom of physicians have been placed in jeopardy. This ruling isn’t the end of the fight for our reproductive rights, it is only the beginning.”
According to a statement from the New Orleans Police Department, officers will not enforce the criminalization of abortion in the city.
“Effective July 8, 2022, until otherwise advised by the Superintendent of Police, NOPD officers will not issue summons, make physical arrests, or otherwise enforce violations related to state laws prohibiting abortion.
Only in the event of extenuating circumstances, such as medical malpractice by a provider or violations of criminal law unrelated to state abortion statutes, would any sort of enforcement be considered.
Any such potential enforcement action would need the approval of a supervisor at the rank of Lieutenant or higher before any action could be taken.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) says they plan to ask the new court in Baton Rouge to once again block the bans as soon as possible. Jenny Ma, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights responded to the decision by saying, “Today’s ruling was on a technicality, and did not touch the merits of this case. I am personally devastated for patients in Louisiana who are now panicking trying to figure out how to get care. But to be clear, this case is by no means over. We’re just starting the legal battle to get the ban blocked again. Since Roe fell last month, abortion services have ceased in nine other states, and that number is continuing to grow. With every state that bans abortion, the distance patients in the south have to travel grows exponentially. So losing access in Louisiana, even for a day, is contributing to a growing health crisis not only for people in Louisiana but across the south.
After the hearing, Lift Louisiana made the following statement: “Today, a New Orleans judge agreed with the state on a procedural issue, and ruled that abortion providers must challenge Louisiana’s confusing trigger ban in East Baton Rouge Parish. The temporary restraining order, which prevented the trigger ban from going into effect, has expired.
While we at Lift are disheartened by the judge’s decision, we expect this fight to continue. As we have said before and will continue to loudly proclaim, anti-abortion laws like these trigger bans empower the state to oppress Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, people with low incomes, young people, and people living in rural areas, and other marginalized communities from accessing abortion care. This oppression is rooted in anti-Black racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and misogyny.
The trigger laws have been vague from the beginning, and that ambiguity clearly places pregnant people’s lives at risk and paralyzes doctors from making critical care decisions. This is a bad day for the people of Louisiana, especially pregnant people, but it is not the end, and this decision will not deter us from continuing to fight for reproductive justice.”
Council President Helena Moreno was also quick to respond to the court’s decision. Councilwoman Moreno has remained an advocate for women’s rights since before Roe v. Wade was overturned. On Friday morning she said, “I’m obviously deeply disappointed in the court’s ruling today, but the fight for reproductive rights will continue. I want to thank the legal team fighting for our rights here in Louisiana, and I will continue to do whatever I can to help them.
In the meantime, I appreciate President Biden’s new executive actions, especially around securing access to FDA-approved medications and birth control, as well as legal protection from the US Attorney General for those traveling for medical care. I look forward to more urgent and bolder action from our federal partners in this fight.”
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — On Friday morning, the hearing began for the Abortion Lawsuit vs. AG Jeff Landry. Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms Julien is presiding over this case.
In full, the case is #2022-05633 – JUNE MEDICAL SERVICES, LLC D/B/A HOPE MEDICAL GROUP FOR WOMEN ET AL versus LANDRY, JEFF, IN HIS OFFICiAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF LOUISIANA ET AL.
This case will determine the fate of abortion in the state. Louisiana has 3 abortion clinics and under a current injunction, all 3 clinics are able to remain open.
The hearing started at 11:00 a.m. but in the hours before then, the New Orleans Police Department worked to prepare the City for protests. Barricades were put up around the courthouse, and NOPD Motorcycle Officers were staged throughout the neighborhood.
More than 100 protesters can be seen outside of the courthouse, and many have been there since the early morning hours on Friday. WGNO has two reporters on the scene, one inside the courthouse and one outside.
Earlier in the week, the New Orleans City Council enacted legislation that would prohibit the City of New Orleans and local law enforcement from using public funds or resources to enforce Louisiana’s trigger abortion laws.
“That’ll mean NOPD won’t prioritize going after women who are seeking reproductive services and won’t go after doctors who are seeking reproductive services,” said Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno.
Several speakers voiced their opinions; most of them supported the resolution. Abortion rights advocates say the trigger ban will not stop people from getting abortions. “What it will do is stop providers from considering Louisiana a safe place to work and utilize their hard-earned medical licenses and expertise,” said Michelle Erenberg with Lift Louisiana.
Some spoke in opposition of the resolution. They believe the council is sending the wrong message. “It makes me sad because it just confirms what I thought, you know, and it brings more darkness here for you all, and it makes me sad,” said anti-abortion advocate Jennifer McCoy.
The council says they will continue to fight for long-term solutions and that federal assistance is needed.
The court date for the hearing in Baton Rouge has not yet been scheduled.