On Tuesday, a Baton Rouge judge temporarily blocked restrictions on abortion that went into effect in Louisiana after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing state officials to regulate and restrict abortion according to their political ambitions.
The block will stand at least until a hearing planned for next Monday on the question of issuing a longer-lasting order against the abortion restrictions’ enforcement. Previously, a New Orleans judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking three abortion bans in the state from going into effect, but another judge subsequently concluded that New Orleans judge lacked the appropriate authority to issue that order. Now, it’s Baton Rouge District Judge Donald Johnson who once again temporarily blocked the Louisiana abortion restrictions.
Predictably, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, indicated he’d keep pushing to keep the abortion restrictions in place. “The people of Louisiana have spoken both directly at the ballot box and through their elected legislature again and again and again – not only statutorily but also constitutionally,” he complained Tuesday. There’s a constitutional amendment in Louisiana that was passed in 2020 with 62 percent of the vote and specifies that there is no right to abortion enshrined in the state Constitution. After the initial block on Louisiana’s abortion restrictions, Landry sought action from the state Supreme Court, which punted the matter back to lower state courts. It’s after that point when Louisiana Judge Ethel S. Julien ruled against the first block.
Abortion providers challenging Louisiana’s abortion restrictions alleged they are in violation of due process protections contained in the state Constitution. They’ve also claimed the restrictions to be “void for vagueness” because of a lack of specifics. Hope Medical Group for Women, a Louisiana abortion clinic that is participating in the court challenge against the state restrictions, indicated it would once again be providing abortions — for now — following Johnson’s decision.
“Every hour and every day that a clinic can still provide abortion care fundamentally changes the lives of people for the better,” Jenny Ma, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights, remarked. Jason Williams, the district attorney for Orleans Parish in Louisiana, signed a joint statement from prosecutors across the nation pledging not to bring prosecutions in connection to any cases involving someone receiving an abortion. The statement says that signatories “decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.” The state-sanctioned legal intimidation of abortion providers and potential vulnerability to action from other officials likely means Williams’s pledge won’t be enough to ensure abortion access in his jurisdiction, but he won’t be participating in any proceedings that might spring up connected to obtaining an abortion.
Litigation against post-Roe abortion restrictions has also emerged in states from North Dakota to Kentucky. It seems safe to assume Republican officials will be pursuing more restrictive anti-abortion measures now that the protections provided by the Roe ruling are gone. The main front for pushing back against those restrictions is now the state judiciary in various locales, at least for now. Others arguing against new abortion restrictions have pointed to protections in individual state Constitutions, since an amendment like the one semi-recently passed in Louisiana — specifically stating the document doesn’t protect abortion — is rare.