Louisiana bans abortion after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion rights protestors
Abortion rights protestors demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Jane Norman (States Newsroom)

This story was first reported by Louisiana Illuminator and republished with permission.

Louisiana immediately banned almost all abortions — and its three abortion clinics stopped providing them — after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to an abortion by overturning its Roe v. Wade decision Friday morning.

“We are suspending performing abortions as we decide our next step with our legal team,” said Kathaleen Pittman, who manages Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion clinic in Shreveport. “As you can imagine, we have devastated patients already here today so we are concentrating on them and assisting them with their options.”

Louisiana has a trigger law automatically banning abortion that went into effect after the court’s ruling was handed down. Justices ruled 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade after siding with the state of Mississippi over an abortion restriction that was challenged by that state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson’s Women Health Organization.

Though abortion rights are consistently supported by a majority of people in nationwide polls, Louisiana is one of a handful of states where abortion restrictions and bans have been favored, according to statewide polls.

Louisiana anti-abortion advocates praised the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday.

“This is the beginning of a post-Roe era and post-Roe Louisiana,”  said Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative Christian group that has pushed abortion restrictions for years. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire adult life,”

In Louisiana, abortion is now illegal in almost in all cases. State law only allows for exceptions if pregnant woman’s life is in danger from a physical illness or a pregnant woman could otherwise sustain “serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ.”

It also permits abortions for pregnancies that would result in a child expected to die immediately after birth, but two physicians would have to agree in writing that the pregnancy was futile before the abortion can go forward.

Under the trigger law, abortion procedures can also be used to treat miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, which would not result in the birth of a child.   

Pregnant people whose life might be at risk because of suicidal thoughts or another mental illness cannot use those conditions to access an abortion in Louisiana. A pregnancy that results from rape or incest is also not eligible.

Those who perform illegal abortions – including the prescription of medication that induces abortion – could face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Louisiana also has a law prohibiting of out-of state individuals and organizations from sending abortion medication to people in Louisiana, though it’s not clear to what extent that ban can be enforced.

Critics of the out-of-state medication ban have argued that it runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate trade between states. The Louisiana government also may not have the ability to punish out-of-state abortion providers, effectively making the ban toothless.

Abortion medication is also only effective through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, after which a person needs to have an in-person surgical procedure for an abortion to take place.Louisiana bans abortion after Supreme Court ruling

Louisiana residents who can’t get a medication abortion through the mail or need in-person treatment will now have to travel several hours to a clinic, as all the states that surround Louisiana are also expected have abortion bans. Abortion rights supporters say the travel distance will have the largest effect on poor people.

Illinois and New Mexico will be the closest states to Louisiana with liberal abortion access. Florida will likely be the closest state with access to abortion for people within the first 15 weeks of their pregnancy.  

The Louisiana Department of Health is tasked with enforcing the closure of the abortion clinics, but Pittman, at the Shreveport clinic, said she had not heard from the agency as of Friday afternoon. 

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling comes after over a month of increased tension following a leaked draft of the opinion, which indicated that the court was likely to overrule abortion rights. In the weeks since the leak, the Shreveport abortion clinic continued to see as many patients as it could. 

“I tear up thinking of those women being denied access to care,” Pittman said in an interview last week.

A Louisiana abortion ban is the culmination of a successful, decades-long campaign that had already chipped away at abortion access in the state. In 1999, there were a little over 12,000 abortions carried out in Louisiana, according to data from the state Department of Health. Last year, there were just 7,500.