Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a Louisiana law requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The implications for clinic closures is terrifying. Due to pressure and threats from antichoice ideologues, and the overall safety of abortion and the low likelihood of hospitalization, hospitals are reluctant to grant privileges to abortion providers, even in major cities. This law would also almost guarantee that providers in rural areas would never get privileges were a clinic to open there.
If this ruling is enacted, it will close down most providers in a state that only has three clinics that perform abortions. This ruling will have a disproportionate impact on rural patients, low-income people, women of color, and other individuals who are already disadvantaged by our healthcare system, and will face tremendous barriers in order to secure out-of-state travel.
The 2-1 decision reversed US Supreme Court and Louisiana district court precedent, which held that the admitting privileges law was unconstitutional based on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. An injunction blocking the law will remain in place until October 18th. At this point, all three clinics are open, but the situation is dire.
This is a harrowing reminder that politicians want to make abortion illegal and inaccessible, and that we often depend on the courts to ensure access. The doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana are capable, professional, and compassionate, and abortion has less than a 1% complication rate. Regulations like this are designed specifically to end access to abortion.
However, we will continue our work of providing assistance to people seeking abortion care, normalizing abortion as a safe and necessary healthcare, and eliminating the stigma and shame surrounding abortion. Now is the time to educate and mobilize. State and national politics can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to discern the most urgent issues. If we want to preserve abortion access for Louisianans, this is the time to act.