A judge has denied the state’s request to enforce Louisiana’s abortion ban while it appeals a decision that blocked the law from taking effect, paving the way for clinics to remain open for now.
Attorney General Jeff Landry had argued that 19th Judicial District Court Judge Don Johnson’s July block of the ban should be suspended while Landry tried to get that decision overturned. That suspension would have effectively put the abortion ban back into effect for the third – and possibly final – time.
But Johnson denied Landry’s request Tuesday, meaning that abortion will likely remain accessible for at least a little while longer in Louisiana. Though Johnson has halted the ban at least until the court case against it plays out, the procedure is widely expected to be banned soon either by the courts or the Legislature. State lawmakers have repeatedly shown they have the votes to enact a strict ban with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, Johnson said the plaintiffs challenging the abortion ban have shown that it could have negative consequences.
“Plaintiffs have…shown how such ‘trigger bans’ could unconstitutionally be reasonably misunderstood and misapplied by healthcare professionals, and by interpretation of ordinary citizens,” Johnson’s ruling says.
The ongoing legal challenge, made by a Shreveport abortion clinic, a nonprofit with chapters in New Orleans and a doctor in the city, has led to several false starts for Louisiana’s abortion ban. The law, passed in 2006 and updated this year, has taken effect and been blocked twice.
Landry’s office will likely seek a different type of appeal of Johnson’s ruling. It’s not clear how long it may take for the 1st Circuit to act. Though the process typically takes months, the parties could seek an emergency hearing that would speed things up. The 1st Circuit, made up of 11 Republicans and one Democrat, will have a random three-judge panel hear the case.
The abortion providers argue the law is unconstitutionally vague and would wreak havoc on maternal health. Dr. Valerie Williams, of New Orleans, filed an affidavit saying the ban forced her to have a patient go through a painful labor instead of using a simple abortion procedure to remove a fetus at 16 weeks after her water broke. The patient hemorrhaged and lost a liter of blood, Williams wrote in the filing.
“This decision ensures that Louisiana will continue to provide crucial healthcare to women,” Joanna Wright, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Whether on appeal or in a Baton Rouge trial court, we will continue to prove the unconstitutionality of this patchwork set of laws.”
Landry’s lawyers have argued the state’s law is clear, and that doctors are safe from 10- and 15-year prison sentences laid out in the law if they use “reasonable medical judgment.”