The Louisiana Department of Justice says it has discovered evidence of alleged criminal activity at the abortion business in the center of an upcoming Supreme Court abortion case.
The department says Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion provider in Shreveport and subsidiary of June Medical Services, hid evidence of criminal and professional misconduct from the high court as the company challenges the state’s regulations on abortion clinics.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments early next year on the clinic’s challenge to a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. It is one of a series of lawsuits the clinic has filed against Louisiana anti-abortion measures that have passed the legislature since 2014.
The Louisiana Department of Justice last week asked a federal appeals court to toss out a blanket seal over the proceedings that was placed by a federal district judge when the court case began. The department says it cannot hand over its information to the district attorney or discuss the case because of the seal.
Hope Medical Group for Women referred a caller to its manager, who did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Louisiana in recent years has passed three laws, virtually all halted by the courts and in various stages of appeal, that attempt to limit abortions. One law extends the waiting period on having an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, while another requires doctors performing abortions to be “board certified in family medicine or OB-GYN, or residents work under supervision of docs with these certifications,” according to the state attorney general’s office.
The law the Supreme Court will take up is a 2014 measure that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, a qualification one of the physicians at Hope Medical already has, according to the state.
The Louisiana Department of Justice found the alleged criminal activity and withholding of evidence during the discovery phase of the initial trial, said state Solicitor General Liz Murrill. While Hope prevailed on its challenge in district court, the decision was overturned on appeal by the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Regardless, abortion providers and their supporters say the challenges to the Louisiana laws should be upheld.
“These claims are simply untrue,” said Kelly Krause, a spokeswoman with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is familiar with the litigation and the Hope clinic. “For years, the state of Louisiana has been relying on baseless attacks on abortion providers to defend its unconstitutional abortion restrictions and this is only the latest example. Hope Medical Group has been providing safe and critical reproductive healthcare for nearly 40 years.”
While declining to address specifics of the Hope case, the Louisiana attorney general’s office said the state’s abortion clinics have a disturbing pattern of failing to report rapes, and that a survey it conducted showed that between 2013 and 2018 at least 66 abortions were performed on girls 11, 12 or 13 years old. The ages indicate that the girls were survivors of rape.
More comprehensive data has been withheld from regulators and the public, state officials contend, because at least two abortion clinics that closed recently shredded all their documents when they shut down.
“The evidence and statistics abortion providers are using to claim abortions are safe are national and not state-specific,” Ms. Murrill argued. “This narrative they have that everything they do is safe and helpful is not true.”