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AG Jeff Landry threatens medical providers in letter after judge blocks abortion trigger bans

AG Jeff Landry Louisiana 2021 rally
Paul Braun / WRKF
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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry Speaks at a Louisiana Republican Party rally ahead of the state's first veto session. July 19, 2021.

With Louisiana’s abortion ban temporarily blocked by a judge’s order, Attorney General Jeff Landry is threatening the medical licenses of doctors who continue to provide abortion care at the state’s three abortion clinics.

In a letter published Wednesday, Landry argued that the temporary restraining order issued by an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge blocking the enforcement of the state’s raft of abortion trigger bans did not protect abortion doctors from criminal liability.

“I believe the injunction has limited reach and the claims underlying that order are meritless,” Landry said in the letter. “The temporary restraining order does not — and cannot — immunize medical providers from liability for criminal conduct.”

Landry’s letter does not carry the force of law. Lawyers for Hope Medical Group for Women, the Shreveport abortion clinic that won the temporary restraining order, did not respond to requests for comment.

While Landry’s letter threatened the medical licenses of abortion doctors, he did not send the letter to the agency that acually licenses physicians, known as the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, but instead to a group with no authority over medical licenses.

Landry sent the letter to the Louisiana State Medical Society, a membership group that represents physicians, residents and physicians-in-training.

Staff at the New Orleans abortion clinic said they planned to provide abortions Thursday. Hope Medical Group for Women declined to comment.

State Rep. Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans) noted that the attorney general’s statements cannot override a judge’s orders.

“He is trying to scare doctors, that’s all he’s doing,” Rep. Mandy Landry said. “Everything he said in there… is just his opinion. It doesn’t mean anything because he is not a judge. That’s the short of it. Separation of powers. Maybe he forgot about that from law school.”

Louisiana Right to Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, praised the letter.

“The Shreveport abortion business is grasping at straws in their challenge to Louisiana law,” said executive director Benjamin Clapper. “It shows how desperate they are to preserve their abortion profit. We applaud AG Jeff Landry for reminding physicians that our law is abundantly clear: babies are now protected from elective abortion in Louisiana.”

Jessica Frankel, a coordinator with the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and a licensed social worker, said the roll out of the state’s abortion trigger laws Friday left abortion providers and advocates with little clarity over what services and care would be allowed under the new regime. Landry’s claims Wednesday made the legal status of abortion care in the state even less clear.

“It puts medical providers into a position where they’re intimidated to do their job and they’re intimidated and threatened to not be able to comply with their code of ethics,” Frankel said.

Frankel said her organization, which works with the state’s abortion providers and local and national abortion-rights lawyers, will continue to provide updates on the legal status of abortion care in Louisiana and information on self-managed abortions.

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.
Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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