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Aug 6, 2010 9:36 PM by Alison Haynes

Lawsuit challenges new La. abortion laws

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A group of abortion clinics filed a
federal lawsuit Friday challenging two new Louisiana abortion laws
that require ultrasound exams for all women getting abortions and
that bar medical malpractice coverage for doctors who perform
elective abortions.
The lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge claims the laws, adopted in the
regular legislative session that ended in June, interfere with a
doctor's ability to provide a legal medical procedure and violate
women's rights to have an abortion.
"The government cannot single out abortion providers and the
women who seek their services simply because some politicians don't
approve. It's completely unfair and more importantly, it violates
the U.S. Constitution," said Stephanie Toti, an attorney at the
Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based abortion rights
organization that filed the lawsuit for the clinics.
Named as defendants are Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, the
state health secretary and a list of people who serve on two
medical boards that are responsible for enforcing the statutes and
can discipline doctors who fail to comply with the ultrasound
requirement.
A spokeswoman for Caldwell said the office hasn't yet formally
received the lawsuit and could not comment. The state health
department also refused to comment until it was served with the
lawsuit.
Both laws won overwhelming support in the Louisiana Legislature.
The new ultrasound law not only requires the medical procedure,
but also 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.
The lawsuit argues the ultrasound requirement is
"unconstitutionally vague" because it doesn't explain whether a
person performing the ultrasound exam must try to force the woman
to accept the envelope containing the photograph. The lawsuit also
says it could violate a patient's right to confidentiality by
"exposing their private information to the risk of delivery by
third parties."
During legislative debate, 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. Opponents said
requiring a procedure that might not be available at a free clinic
nearby will make it more difficult and costly for women to get
abortions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged similar
ultrasound laws in other states.
The lawsuit argues that the ban on medical malpractice coverage
for doctors who perform elective abortions improperly treats
abortion providers differently from other health care providers and
denies them equal legal protection. The lawsuit says the law is
designed to deter doctors from performing abortions "thereby
imposing a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking
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.

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