Sep 20, 2010 9:52 PM by Alison Haynes
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A group of abortion clinics sued the
state health department Monday over a new law that gives
Louisiana's health secretary more discretion to shut down an
abortion clinic for safety or health concerns.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit for
the clinics, said the Department of Health and Hospitals isn't
allowing clinics the ability to correct alleged deficiencies before
revoking a clinic's license.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Orleans, says the law
deprives the clinics of basic protections given to other licensed
health care facilities in the state and encourages discriminatory
enforcement against them.
"This law leaves abortion facilities vulnerable to arbitrary
and inconsistent treatment by the health department and ultimately
harms women's health instead of protecting it," said Bonnie Scott
Jones, with the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.
The department's regulations allow, for example, a clinic's
license to be revoked and the clinic to be closed immediately if it
doesn't have its patient records in watertight containers as
required, the lawsuit says.
Previously, abortion clinics could continue to operate while
appealing a license suspension.
DHH has said the new law protects the health and safety of
women. Rep. Fred Mills, D-Parks, sponsor of the law, said the
change puts the health secretary's authority over outpatient
abortion clinics in line with the authority he has over other kinds
of health care facilities, like substance abuse and adult day care
The court challenge comes after DHH earlier this month
immediately suspended the license of a Shreveport abortion clinic,
Hope Medical Group for Women, when inspectors said they found
safety concerns there and violations of state health standards. The
clinic reopened last week after a judge overturned the state
closure order until a hearing could be held on the license
The Center for Reproductive Rights said the clinic's license was
suspended even though the facility had corrected most of the
alleged deficiencies, except for some record-keeping issues.
Five abortion clinics and a doctor who performs abortions are
listed as plaintiffs. Hope Medical Group for Women is not named as
a plaintiff. The doctor is listed only as John Doe to prevent his
name from being publicly disclosed.
The case was assigned to Judge Martin L.C. Feldman.
A separate lawsuit was previously filed in Baton Rouge federal
court challenging a new state law that bars medical malpractice
coverage for doctors who perform elective abortions. That lawsuit