Need an Abortion in Louisiana? No Problem! (Just Sit Back, Relax and...Wait 30 Days?) [UPDATED]

Just when I thought my beloved home state of Texas was the standard-bearer for attempts at stripping women of their legal rights, Louisiana swoops in and takes the proverbial cake.
Publish date:
January 27, 2014
abortion, louisiana, abortion regulation, TRAP laws, war on women

OMG you guys, I am getting so bored of having to write this stuff up. Remember when I told you that the crazy anti-abortion laws Texas was trying to pass would soon come to every other state in the union? Well, Texas’ fair neighbor to the east, Louisiana, is the latest state to attempt to restrict access to abortion services by enacting secretive legislation meant to basically make it impossible to obtain a safe, legal abortion upon demand.

Andrea Grimes (of the always excellent RH Reality Check) has the full story here, but the bones of the situation are that Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has recently enacted what they are calling "emergency" regulations, aimed at changing the physical requirements for abortion facilities as well as introducing various new staffing and licensing requirements.

The best part of this proposed legislation is the part where women seeking an abortion in Louisiana will now be required to have blood tests run on hematocrit and hemoglobin levels at least 30 days before their procedure. So if you decide you need an abortion, it stands to reason that the interpretation of this new regulation could be stretched to become a de facto 30 day waiting period. (After all, anti-woman laws are stretched beyond their stated 'intent' all the time.) Sounds cool, no?

What's the stated reason for these sudden "emergency" regulations, you may be wondering? Well, to protect us women-folk from ourselves, of course! Duh.

Sadly, none of this is really all that surprising, as Louisiana has the distinct honor of being named "the most pro-life state of 2013."

A hearing on these regulations will occur on Wednesday, January 29 at 9:30am in Room 118 of the Bienville Building in Baton Rouge.

[UPDATE 1/28: This hearing has since been cancelled and re-scheduled for Tuesday, February 4th at 1pm in Room 173 at the same location. More info here.]

If you live in Louisiana or can get there, I urge you to attend and speak out. Because really, enough with this shit already. I'll be updating this post as the situation develops, so be sure to bookmark it.

UPDATE 5 p.m. PST:After more reading, it seems this proposed regulation is even worse than originally thought. It's meant to go into effect immediately, meaning all existing clinics in Louisiana that don't meet the new space requirements will be forced to close right away. Since these space requirements are brand-spanking new, that means all of them will have to close up shop.

In addition, any new abortion provider looking to open in Louisiana would have to prove to DHH that there is a "need for their services" in order to receive a license.

Considering there are currently only five clinics operating in the whole state, I'd say this need is already proven -- but of course the proposed laws in Louisiana conveniently don't specify what criteria the agency will use to determine said "need."

Now the intent of this secret lawmaking is becoming more clear: it's a pretty obvious attempt to block Planned Parenthood from opening a new, $4.2 million women's health center on South Claiborne Street in New Orleans. (Their current Magazine Street location does not provide abortion services.)

UPDATE 8 p.m. PST:The Nation is reporting the following:

"On Monday night, DHH press secretary Olivia Watkins informed The Nation that the agency would rescind the language regarding the 30-day period for blood tests. Watkins also said the rule would be revised to clarify that square footage requirements apply only to new or renovated facilities. A public hearing regarding the rule changes will take place in February."

It would appear that shining a light on this situation today caused officials to reconsider. Is the Internet really that powerful?

I do know that Twitter was abuzz all day today with Texas volunteers organizing to travel to the Louisiana hearing to testify -- much as they did in July when activist Sarah Slamen embarrassed the Texas Senate Committee with her scorching indictment of their shady attempt to push through anti-abortion legislation in the 'dead of night':

Were Louisiana lawmakers hoping to avoid the same fate? It would appear so. Nice work, ladies.

UPDATE 1/28, 9 a.m. PST: The fight is far from over. Officials may have backed down on some of the more terrible language in their proposed restrictions, but they are still moving to block any new reproductive services facilities from opening in the state.

If you can attend, the public hearing on these proposed restrictions has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, February 4th at 1pm in Room 173 of the Bienville Building in Baton Rouge. If you can't, email a letter with your testimony about the proposed regulations to the New Orleans Abortion Fund (abortionfundnola at gmail dot com) to add your voice to the chorus of women saying HELL NO to the assault on our reproductive freedoms. They will print out and hand-deliver letters to the hearing.

(Please note: your comments MUST have your full name and address.) Here's a sample letter to get you started.

And many thanks to the tireless work of the many, many reproductive rights activists who helped me keep on top of this story.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison