Abortion rights group seeks rehearing on Louisiana law

Posted at 8:29 PM, Oct 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-06 21:29:20-04

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A group that supports abortion rights wants a federal appeals court to revisit its split decision upholding a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Center for Reproductive Rights asked in documents filed Friday that the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rehear the case. A panel of judges on the appellate court, in a split 2-1 decision last month, upheld the law.

The Center said it asked the court to rehear the case because the panel’s decision “violates binding Supreme Court precedent.”

“What these two judges did is really outrageous,” said Travis J. Tu, the Center’s senior counsel, in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press. “Any first-year law student knows that when the Supreme Court speaks, lower courts are supposed to listen. And the Supreme Court said that the exact same law in Texas was unconstitutional. So how can the Louisiana law be constitutional?”

The 5th Circuit ruling acknowledges a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down an admitting privileges law in Texas – a case known as Whole Woman’s Health. But the majority said Louisiana’s law does not impose the same “substantial burden” on women as the Texas law. The ruling reversed a Baton Rouge-based federal judge’s decision in the case and ordered the lawsuit by opponents of the law dismissed.

“Almost all Texas hospitals required that for a doctor to maintain privileges there, he or she had to admit a minimum number of patients annually,” Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in the opinion joined by Judge Edith Brown Clement. “Few Louisiana hospitals made that demand.”

Opponents have said if the law goes into effect, it could result in the closure of at least two of the three clinics that provide abortions in Louisiana. Louisiana health care providers and the Center are currently challenging many of the other restrictions in two other lawsuits

“We will continue to fight at every level we have,” Tu said. “If the court doesn’t agree to rehear the case, we will look at all our options. We are committed to keeping abortion access available in Louisiana, which is in a really precarious situation.

“A woman’s constitutional right to access abortion is on the verge of extinction and that’s not hyperbole. That is a reality.”

The court did not indicate when it would rule.