NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana can now enforce its ban on almost all abortions under a judge’s order issued Friday amid a flurry of court challenges to state “trigger” laws crafted to take effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The decision came the same day President Joe Biden issued an executive order to protect access to abortion in states where it is still legal and mitigate the potential penalties women seeking the procedure may face after the high court’s ruling on June 24.
Days after the Supreme Court decision, Louisiana District Judge Robin Giarrusso issued a temporary restraining order banning enforcement of the state legislation in response to a lawsuit filed by a north Louisiana abortion clinic and others.
State District Judge Ethel Julien said Friday that she did not have the authority to extend the restraining order because she had concluded the suit should not have been filed in her court. She said the suit’s claims that provisions in the law are unconstitutionally vague and inconsistent are matters involving legislation, and therefore should be heard in state court in the capital, Baton Rouge.
The ruling was a victory for Attorney General Jeff Landry and lawyers for the state, who argued that the lawsuit had been improperly filed in New Orleans.
Attorneys for the law's challengers did not detail their next step, but said they would continue to press the case in Baton Rouge. “This was a decision on a technicality that had nothing to do with the merits of our case, which were not discussed or considered by the parties or the court today," said lead attorney Joanna Wright. “This fight is far from over.”
Immediately after Julien ruled, Amy Irvin, a spokeswoman for abortion clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge said no procedures or counseling were scheduled at either in the coming days. However, she added that the decision doesn't mean the clinics will shut down. She said clinic operators would await action at the state court in Baton Rouge before deciding their next action.
The administrator of the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, told The Associated Press that clinic staff were canceling all abortion appointments scheduled for Saturday. Kathaleen Pittman said no procedures or consultations had been scheduled for Friday. She said the clinic would continue to schedule appointments for women to receive ultrasounds and counseling next week.
“It’s upsetting. It’s very difficult. It’s a very difficult day indeed,” Pittman said.
At the courthouse, Landry cautioned clinics and doctors against providing abortions following Julien's ruling. “If they continue to operate, they do so under their own risk,” Landry said.
About 60 protesters gathered outside the courthouse Friday waving signs that read, “Abortion is healthcare” and “Do you want women to die?” The demonstrators, who want to keep the state’s abortion clinics open, criticized Landry, who has been a staunch defender of efforts to outlaw abortion across the state.
Abortion rights advocates in numerous states have filed court challenges to laws restricting the procedure. In Mississippi, home of the case that led to the Supreme Court decision, attorneys for the state’s sole abortion clinic filed a petition on Thursday asking the state’s highest court to temporarily block a new law that bans most abortions. The attorneys made the request on the day the law took effect and two days after a Mississippi judge rejected the same request.
The story has been edited to clarify that Julien did not lift the order, per se, but said she had no authority to extend it after determining the case didn’t belong in her court.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.