- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2015

A federal judge Monday heard testimony in a trial challenging Louisiana’s abortion law, while pro-choice advocates continued their wait on the Supreme Court to weigh in on a related legal fight in Texas.

Both Louisiana and Texas state laws are affected by a June 9 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said a Texas law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges was constitutional.

Louisiana’s hospital-admitting law still went to trial Monday because Texas abortion clinics are appealing the appellate ruling to the Supreme Court.

Several “John Doe” doctors from three Louisiana clinics are expected to testify to U.S. District Judge John deGravelles in Baton Rouge that they have sought hospital-admitting privileges without success. They will be permitted to testify from behind a screen so court spectators cannot see them.

Lawyers with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) say the Louisiana law could shutter several of the five abortion clinics in the state. On Monday, a clinic administrator said one of their two doctors had not won local privileges, and the other doctor, who has privileges, would be unlikely to remain as the clinic’s sole doctor.

The nonjury trial is expected to last six days, as Judge deGravelles has worked with lawyers to streamline the argument process.

The 5th Circuit ruling is a victory for Louisiana and Texas lawmakers, who want to regulate abortion clinics more closely.

The doctors’ admitting privilege provision was enacted to ensure a continuity of care in cases where women seek emergency care at a hospital after an abortion.

Texas’ law also requires abortion clinics to meet physical standards of ambulatory surgical centers. This stems from situations in other states, such as where abortion clinic hallways were too small for emergency responders to get their equipment in to move patients, and the infamous Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic in Philadelphia, which was filthy and in deplorable condition.

The Texas law is set to go into effect July 1.

When the 5th Circuit declined to stay its ruling on Friday, the CRR, on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas abortion clinics and providers, filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia receives such requests, and can act on them solely or with the other justices.

CRR and its clients say the new law could close several Texas clinics, leaving as few as nine operating in Texas.

The Supreme Court was in session Monday morning, but didn’t respond to the CRR emergency appeal.

Separately, the Louisiana health department recently cleared the way for a new abortion clinic to file for a license. Planned Parenthood’s $4 million New Orleans clinic would be the state’s sixth and the first to be run by Planned Parenthood.

The 5th Circuit covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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