Press Release: Louisiana is Ground Zero for Abortion Access with Kavanaugh Nomination

NEW ORLEANS — President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a far-right conservative hostile to abortion rights and equal access to healthcare, for Supreme Court Justice makes Louisiana ground zero if Roe v. Wade is overturned, say Louisiana reproductive rights organizations.

“Allowing President Trump to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court threatens to undermine what generations among us have fought so hard to protect,” said Angela Adkins, Legislative Director of NOW Louisiana. “For decades, the Supreme Court has been the final defense against infringement on our fundamental rights. When the next nominee takes the bench, we are in danger of losing those protections.”

Louisiana is one of four states with a “trigger law,” a state law banning abortion that would instantly take effect if Roe is overturned. Louisiana's law criminalizes abortion, and punishes anyone who performs or aides in abortion with up to 10 years in prison. Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota also have trigger laws. Another 20 states may be effected by a reversal of Roe, experts report.

"The vacancy left by Justice Kennedy's retirement at such a crucial moment will surely determine the future of this country. For decades, anti-abortion zealots have chipped away at the rights assured in Roe through mandatory delays, targeted regulations of abortion providers, and government-funded fake clinics that lie to patients about the options available to them," said Amy Irvin, Executive Director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund. "These attacks, coupled with growing inequality in the U.S, have pushed abortion almost out of reach for many people. Another judge appointed by President Donald Trump could end access to legal abortion altogether."

Abortion restrictions in Louisiana are already some of the most restrictive in the country, with a parental consent law, a 24-hour waiting period, and bans on private insurance and Medicaid coverage. In 2016 seven anti-choice bills were signed into law by Louisiana lawmakers, all of them currently being litigated by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"We are facing a more severe threat to abortion access now than we ever have so it is alarming to think that Louisiana women will not be able to rely on the protection of the Supreme Court to uphold our rights,” said Michelle Erenberg, Director of Lift Louisiana. "Even if Roe isn't overturned, we are likely to see more clinics close, longer mandatory waiting periods for women trying to obtain an abortion, and a ban on abortions after fifteen weeks."

Act 197, an extreme and dangerous bill that prohibits abortion after 15-weeks of gestation, passed overwhelmingly in the House (86-0) and Senate (34-0) and was signed by Governor John Bel Edwards in May. The law goes into effect only if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a similar Mississippi ban. Louisiana already imposes a 20- week ban, requiring women seeking late-term abortion care to travel out of state.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that President Trump picked a nominee that was hand-selected by the Religious Right lobby and ultraconservative Catholic groups at the expense of the vast majority of the faithful who believe in social justice and a woman’s right to choose,” says Jon O’ Brien, President of Catholics for Choice. “More than 60 percent of Catholics believe abortion should be legal; six in 10 Catholic voters say that abortion can be a moral choice; and Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as women of other faiths or no faith. Judge Kavanaugh and his supporter’s ultraconservative views do not represent the majority of ordinary Catholics, in Louisiana or across the nation.”

"Reproductive rights in this country are under attack. The Trump administration's pick of Judge Brett Kavanaugh reflects a radical departure from both judicial precedent and public opinion,” says Henry Walther, President of Tulane College Democrats. “The consequences of this decision will be felt by millions of women whose voices have been silenced and bodily autonomy disrespected."

Signed,

  • AAUW of Louisiana
  • Catholics for Choice
  • Democratic Women of Acadiana
  • Feminist Majority Foundation
  • If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, Tulane Law Chapter
  • Lift Louisiana
  • Medical Students for Choice --- Tulane University
  • Medical Students for Choice --- Louisiana State University
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • National Organization for Women (NOW) Louisiana
  • National Organization for Women (NOW) Baton Rouge
  • National Organization for Women (NOW) New Orleans
  • National Organization for Women (NOW) Shreveport
  • New Orleans Abortion Fund
  • Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast
  • Progressive Social Network Baton Rouge
  • Social Workers United for Reproductive Freedom

Women's Lobby Day

 Executive Director Amy Irvin with our organizing partners from Lift Louisiana, Feminist Majority Foundation, Women with a Vision, Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, & the National Center for Jewish Women LA (left to right).

Executive Director Amy Irvin with our organizing partners from Lift Louisiana, Feminist Majority Foundation, Women with a Vision, Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, & the National Center for Jewish Women LA (left to right).

On Wednesday April 11th, NOAF joined our coalition partners for a day of networking, lobbying, and educating at the Louisiana State Capitol. 

Over 100 participants converged on the State Capitol spent Wednesday morning taking a tour of the capitol building, learning about the committee hearings, and meeting staff members from Lift Louisiana, Women with a Vision, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Catholics for Choice, the National Center for Jewish Women, Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, and others. In the afternoon, we heard from members of these organizations and others about bills affecting issues ranging from comprehensive sex education to HIV decriminalization, voting reform, LGBTQA+ rights, abortion restrictions, and many more. Finally we received a crash-course in lobbying, which covered how to use & fill out comment cards and how to get these cards to our senators and house representatives on the floor. 

A group of NOAF supporters headed over to the Senate floor to send messages to their senators regarding SB-181, a bill proposed by Senator Milkovich designed to prohibit abortion procedures past 15 weeks.

Read more about the day's events here!

Another Obstacle for Louisiana Patients Seeking Abortion Care as the Number of Clinics Drops to Three

One year ago, NOAF released the following statement about the declining number of clinics in Louisiana. 

The New Orleans Abortion Fund is saddened to hear of the closure of Bossier City Medical Suites, one of the few clinics in Louisiana offering abortion care.  For years, Bossier City Medical Suite provided safe and compassionate abortion care in Northwest Louisiana; its owner has decided to cease operations, however.  The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has onerous regulations specifically targeting abortion providers that make it nearly impossible to transfer ownership of a clinic that provides abortion care.  This brings the total number of clinics in Louisiana to three. 

"The Louisiana legislature and Department of Health have imposed countless restrictions on abortion care, many of which have been found to be unconstitutional," said Amy Irvin, Executive Director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which provides financial assistance to clients who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion.  "Despite the fact that the state has some of the worst health outcomes for women and children, policymakers concentrate their efforts on restricting reproductive freedom.  These regulations disproportionately impact people in rural areas, low-income women, women of color, and other marginalized individuals." 

Now, as the legislative session (and another year of attacks) begins, patients in Louisiana who need abortion care have even fewer places to turn.  The New Orleans Abortion Fund calls on LDH Secretary Gee and the Louisiana legislature to cease their attacks on abortion access, and work for comprehensive health care services for all Louisianans. 

As the three clinics in the state work to absorb the patients who would have gone to Bossier City Medical Suite, the New Orleans Abortion Fund continues its mission of dismantling political, ideological, and financial barriers to abortion care.  To support, please visit www.neworleansabortionfund.org/donate

The Founding of Our Fund

The New Orleans Abortion Fund was started by co-founders Amy Irvin and Jessie Nieblas over a cup of coffee in the spring of 2012. Both were new arrivals to New Orleans with previous experience with abortion funds in other cities. Additionally, Amy had experienced the burdensome regulations that often deny individuals access to abortion care as a recent patient at Women’s Health Care Center. Upon meeting that spring afternoon they decided to start a fund with the help of the National Network of Abortion Funds and spent the summer at local coffee shops with other supporters to write the articles of incorporation, recruit volunteers and develop a fundraising plan. The first fundraiser was a garage sale held at Amy’s St. Charles Avenue apartment that raised $200; her boyfriend became the first major donor with a pledge of $500, the cost of a medical abortion.

Tulane University students, representing emerging student groups such as Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) and Social Work Students United for Reproductive Freedom (SWURF), were integral to the early work of the Fund. Co-founder Jessie Nieblas was a graduate student in the Tulane University Masters of Public Health program. As part of her studies, she was doing an internship at the Newcomb College Institute, where Assistant Director Laura Wolford worked and offered to host our first house party. Other student leaders, such as Jessica Kincman, Bethany Van Kampen, Tamara Dukich, Jennifer Chin, and Lamia Abi Samra either served as board members or were on the first intake committee, taking calls to the hotline and coordinating pledges with the Fund’s partner clinic Women’s Health Care Center, where Amy had been a patient. In April 2013 the Fund made its first pledge and has since assisted more than 1,100 clients in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.

From its inception, the New Orleans Abortion Fund recognized the importance of community engagement and advocacy. In September 2013 the Fund held its first public event to honor Sylvia Cochran for four decades of work in New Orleans as a clinic administrator and raise awareness about the Hyde Amendment, federal legislation that primarily impacts low-income individuals on Medicaid. Later that year, the Fund and its student allies successfully protested “emergency rules” issued by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) that threatened to close all five abortion clinics in the state. Anticipating anti-choice legislation in the 2014 legislative session, particularly an admitting privileges bill similar to Texas legislation, the Fund joined with student and community partners to form the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (LCRF), which now comprises 17 organizations.

With small grants from the National Network of Abortion Funds for advocacy, the Fund offers a pro-choice perspective during the Louisiana Legislative Session, consistently testifying in committee hearings, doing media interviews and engaging our supporters and community about anti-choice legislation. As the only abortion fund in the state, the New Orleans Abortion Fund is uniquely positioned to raise the voices and lived experiences of the marginalized people and families it serves in all its advocacy, communications, and outreach.

The New Orleans Abortion Fund has steadily grown in its staffing and program capacity with generous support from the Packard Foundation. This includes the development of a clinic escort committee, initially started in the summer of 2014 when Operation Save America descended onto New Orleans to harass clinic patients. With the help of Feminist Majority Foundation, NOAF trained clinic escorts and legal observers to protect clinics. In 2014, the Fund hired an intake coordinator to hold monthly intake committee meetings, train intake members, and coordinate pledges with our partner clinics. In January 2016, the Fund hired its first executive director and a clinic escort coordinator in June. Of course, the majority of the Fund’s work continues to be done by volunteer members who generously give of their time, support and money to fulfill the organization’s mission.

The Fund would like to acknowledge founding board members Amy Irvin, Jessie Nieblas, and Jessica Kincman, as well as past and current board members Bethany VanKampen, Sylvia Cochran, Jackie Krugler, Jules Richelson, Mike Stagg and Maria Wickstrom. The work of the intake committee could not have been accomplished without intake coordinators Lamia AbiSamra, Marlo Barrera and Catherine “Cat” Patteson. Finally, long-time supporter Winter Randall served  as the Fund's first clinic escort coordinator; the position is now held by Olivia Anderson. Amy Irvin serves as the executive director.