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Louisiana Right to Life Demands Gov. Edwards Ban Abortions In Response To Coronavirus

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Center for Reproductive Rights
The Hope Medical Group for Women abortion clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Louisiana’s health department and governor are facing mounting pressure from anti-abortion groups angry that abortion clinics have continued to operate during the pandemic.

In the latest move, Louisiana Right to Life is demanding that Gov. John Bel Edwards take “decisive action” and explicitly ban abortions after the state investigated the clinics in early April.

In a letter to Edwards, Benjamin Clapper, the executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, criticized the governor’s lack of action. The organization has obtained a copy of a notice sent by the health department to Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion clinic in Shreveport that has been at the center of numerous legal battles over abortion in the state.

The notice, dated April 15 and signed by the State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, says the clinic’s practice of "accepting out-of-state patients and scheduling patients weeks in advance is evidence that these procedures are de facto, not emergency medical conditions."

WWNO has confirmed the letter’s details, and that the clinic has responded. Hope’s administrator told journalists last week that the clinic was seeing a spike in patients from Texas, where abortions have been banned, causing a weeks-long wait for appointments.

The health department’s letter came one week after officials from the attorney general’s office investigated Louisiana abortion clinics.

Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Right to Life say abortion clinics are violating a notice from the department of health banning all elective procedures, except in narrow cases. Hope Medical Group sued the attorney general and the state last week, arguing that abortions qualify as exceptions.

It’s unclear what action the health department might take next. It's set to relax the ban on elective surgeries beginning on Monday.

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Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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