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Louisiana abortion ban blocked again by judge; AG Landry expected to appeal decision

Protestors gather in Lafayette Square in New Orleans following Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade
Alana Schreiber
Protestors gather in Lafayette Square in New Orleans following Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade

A Baton Rouge judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s near-absolute abortion ban Thursday, preserving access to the procedure in the state for the time being.

Judge Donald Johnson of the 19th Judicial District Court sided with abortion providers who sued the state in the days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ended the constitutional right to abortion, and triggered dozens of Louisiana laws intended to outlaw the procedure from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Thursday’s ruling is a victory for abortion rights advocates, who have fought to delay the implementation of new abortion restrictions across the country as long as possible. But it may be short-lived.

Attorney General Jeff Landry is expected to appeal the decision, and the state Supreme Court will likely decide the ultimate fate of the bans. While the specifics of the current trigger laws are up for debate, state lawmakers have made clear their intention to outlaw abortion in nearly all cases. They have expressed a willingness to pass new legislation to do so if the current laws are not upheld by the courts.

Johnson’s ruling comes after he heard arguments earlier this week from both the Attorney General’s office and attorneys representing a Louisiana abortion clinic.

Shreveport abortion clinic Hope Medical Group, with the assistance of attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the state’s collection of overlapping abortion trigger bans was “unconstitutionally vague” and made it impossible for doctors to know when life-threatening or medically futile pregnancies could be terminated under the few exceptions in the law. The law contains no exceptions for rape or incest.

Doctors who run afoul of the law could face prison terms of up to 15 years and fines of up to $200,000.

Temporary restraining orders have blocked the enforcement of the trigger laws for long stretches of time since the landmark Supreme Court ruling last month. In the brief periods that it was activated, doctors altered the way they provided maternal care, sometimes to the detriment of their patients.

A New Orleans OB/GYN filed a sworn affidavit earlier this week saying she treated a pregnant patient whose water broke at 16 weeks, well before viability. The doctor was advised by her hospital’s attorneys not to perform the routine dilation and evacuation procedure that the patient requested. Instead, the woman was forced to endure a “painful” and “unnecessary” labor to deliver the nonviable fetus.

Attorneys representing the state argued that doctors who use “reasonable medical judgment” would be safe from prosecution.

Landry, who is expected to run for governor in 2023, has grabbed headlines in recent weeks with his tough talk on enforcing the state’s abortion laws. He has previously threatened to prosecute doctors who have provided abortion care during the time in which the trigger laws were blocked, and has told Louisianans who disagree with the state’s abortion laws to “pack their bags and leave.”

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.

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