- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - An abortion rights organization filed the first court challenge Friday to a Louisiana law that will require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.

In its federal lawsuit, the Center for Reproductive Rights says doctors haven’t had enough time to obtain the privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana’s five abortion clinics to close.

Similar lawsuits have received mixed responses from federal judges around the South.

Louisiana’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in Baton Rouge on behalf of abortion clinics in Shreveport, Bossier City and Metairie and two doctors who work at them. It seeks an immediate injunction against the law, which takes effect Sept. 1.

Under the law, abortion doctors must be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed. The hospital must provide obstetrical or gynecological services.

“The Act will jeopardize women’s health, shutting down health centers that provide abortions without medical justification, and either eliminate or severely limit the availability of abortions in the state. As a result, many Louisiana women will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, while other may resort to self-abortion,” the lawsuit says.

Louisiana lawmakers approved the bill by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, with overwhelming and bipartisan support earlier this year. Supporters said the requirement safeguards women if they have complications from an abortion.

Gov. Bobby Jindal backed the new restriction.

“The state will defend the law. This law protects the safety of women by ensuring they have access to critical services in emergencies, and holds them to similar standards as other surgical facilities,” Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates said in a statement.

Abortion-rights groups say doctors who perform abortions have difficulty getting admitting privileges because hospitals don’t want the negative attention. They say the restrictions are medically unnecessary and designed to force clinics to shut down.

“Louisiana is the latest state to advance the unconstitutional objective of denying women safe, legal abortion care under the phony pretext of protecting their health. We intend to demonstrate why this law must be the latest to be blocked by a federal court order,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi’s law, which would have shuttered the state’s only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.

Louisiana’s law also will force women who take the abortion pill to meet the same 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements as those who have surgical abortions. And it requires a doctor who performs more than five abortions a year to meet the inspections required of abortion clinics.

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