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Another Pro-Life Win, Louisiana Law is Upheld by Federal Court

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On Wednesday, a federal appeals court panel ruled that a Louisiana law which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals does not violate women’s constitutional abortion rights.

In a 2-1 ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, judges said the Louisiana provision was different than one in Texas that had been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 known as Whole Woman’s Health.

Louisiana’s law does not impose the same “substantial burden” on women as the Texas law does. The ruling reversed a Baton-Rouge based federal judge’s ruling in the case and later ordered the lawsuit by opponents of the law to be dismissed, according to The National Post.

“There is no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act,” the appeals court said in its ruling.

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“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.”

The Texas law led to the closure of the majority of the state’s abortion clinics and the number of women who were forced to drive over 150 miles to seek abortions increased by 350%, the appeals court said.

Those who support the law said that abortion doctors need to have the ability to admit patients into a hospital within 30 miles in case of medical complications.

Opponents of the law argue that the law will result in one or two clinic closures and, eventually, a loss of access to abortion by 70% of the women who seek the procedure in Louisiana.

Both medical groups and abortion providers contend the requirement is unnecessary because complications from abortions are rare, and when they do occur, emergency rooms and their medical staff are well equipped to provide the care needed.

Before the Texas 2013 state law went into effect, there were around 40 licensed abortion clinics in the state, which has a population of almost 27 million. Once the law went into effect, that number dropped to 8, according to the appeals court.

Patrick Higginbotham, the dissenting judge, taking his colleagues to task said that they, in effect, retried the case entirely after the district judge had given full consideration to the facts of the case. “At the outset,” he wrote, “I fail to see how a statute with no medical benefit that is likely to restrict access to abortion can be considered anything but ‘undue,”‘ he wrote.

In a 5-3 decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer in 2016, the Supreme Court concluded that the Texas law violated a woman’s right to an abortion and didn’t offer medical benefits sufficient to justify it existing.

The decision made on Wednesday was lauded in statements by Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General – whose office defended the law – and by anti-abortion organization Louisiana Right to Life.

Both Higginbotham and Smith were nominated to the 5th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan; Clement, by President George H.W. Bush.

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