- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana health department has cleared the way for Planned Parenthood to apply for a license for its New Orleans clinic to provide abortion services.

In a letter dated Friday, the Department of Health and Hospitals rescinded an earlier requirement that outpatient abortion facilities, such as Planned Parenthood, provide a “facility need review” demonstrating its services are needed to preserve access before it can apply for a license to perform abortions in the state.

Such a review had been required under department regulations enacted in 2012.

Since the review is no longer necessary, the department said Planned Parenthood can move forward with the licensing application process such as submitting a $600 licensing fee, a detailed floor plan of the facility and occupancy approval from both the Office of Public Health and State Fire Marshal’s Office.

“Planned Parenthood is now one step closer to providing safe, legal abortion in Louisiana,” said Jewel Bush, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, in a statement.

Raegan Carter, senior director of external services for the group, said the new health center will offer a full range of reproductive health care.

“When this health center opens, Planned Parenthood will more than double the number of women and men we serve in Louisiana,” she said.

Louisiana has five abortion clinics around the state.

Planned Parenthood’s $4 million health center, expected to open later this year, would be the third clinic offering abortions in the New Orleans area. Lawmakers tried to slow down construction with regulatory hurdles, but were unsuccessful.

The health center will double the size of the organization’s current facility in New Orleans, which offers a wide array of primary care services, including screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. If it received the necessary approvals from the state, the clinic would be the first Planned Parenthood Facility in Louisiana to offer abortions.

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