Aug 19, 2010 9:27 PM by Alison Haynes
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A group of abortion clinics dropped its
challenge of a Louisiana abortion law that requires ultrasound
exams for all women getting abortions, after working out an
agreement with the state health department.
The agreement was approved by a federal judge on Wednesday.
Another portion of the lawsuit will continue, however,
challenging a new state law that bars medical malpractice coverage
for doctors who perform elective abortions, said Stephanie Toti, an
attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the
lawsuit for the clinics.
The clinics had argued the ultrasound law was unconstitutionally
vague because it didn't specify whether providers must force women
to view or accept copies of their ultrasound.
In the agreement filed in a Baton Rouge federal court, the state
Department of Health and Hospitals agreed the law doesn't require a
woman to receive the photograph - but only requires the photograph
to be offered.
DHH also agreed to allow doctors to continue to perform
abortions without giving patients copies of a list of locations
where free ultrasounds are available that is required by the new
law, until the department compiles and distributes the material.
The clinics had argued they were in danger of being shut down
for violating the law because the state hasn't supplied the list
"Once we have the list of providers we can send out, then it is
enforceable m's we will enforce it. Until then, it is our position
that the law is unenforceable," DHH spokeswoman Lisa Faust said
Toti said the clinics aren't challenging the general ultrasound
requirement because they all provide ultrasounds on site as a
"They think it's bad public policy in general, but in this
particular case for the time being it's not requiring them to alter
their practice in any way," she said.
The new ultrasound law requires that women know they have the
option to hear a description of what is seen in the ultrasound, to
receive a photograph of the ultrasound image and to view the
ultrasound. There is no exception for victims of rape or incest.
Supporters of the new law said they hoped the ultrasounds could
dissuade women from getting an abortion by having to learn more
about their pregnancies.
Both the ultrasound and malpractice laws were passed with
overwhelming support in the legislative session that ended in June.
The lawsuit argues the ban on medical malpractice coverage for
doctors who perform elective abortions improperly treats abortion
providers differently from other health providers and denies them
equal legal protection. The lawsuit says the law is designed to
deter doctors from performing abortions.
Six abortion clinics in Shreveport, Bossier City, Baton Rouge,
Metairie and New Orleans and a doctor who performs abortions are
listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The doctor is listed only by
his initials to prevent his name from being publicly disclosed.