Attorney: Abortion ruling not coming Friday, will happen before Monday

A Baton Rouge federal judge will rule before Monday on a request that he block enforcement of a new state law requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, an attorney involved in the case said Friday.

The law, which the clinics and doctors say is unconstitutional, is scheduled to go into effect Monday.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles held a hearing in the case Thursday and said he would issue a ruling Friday, but the judge’s staff informed lawyers in the case Friday afternoon that a decision would not be rendered Friday but would be sent out before Monday, said William Rittenberg, an attorney for several abortion clinics and doctors who sued the state Aug. 22.

State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert has assured deGravelles she has no intention of enforcing the new law — Act 620 — against physicians who applied for admitting privileges during the act’s grace period but who have not received answers on those applications.

The grace period runs from June 12 to Sept. 1.

The law, backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and passed overwhelmingly in the 2014 Legislature, was pushed by anti-abortion forces who said it was aimed at protecting the health of women who get abortions by ensuring access to proper care if they have complications from the procedure.

The law requires every doctor providing an abortion to have active admitting privileges at a hospital not more than 30 miles from where the abortion is performed. The hospital must provide obstetrical or gynecological health care services.

The law’s opponents contend the restrictions are medically unnecessary and designed to limit abortion access.

There are five abortion clinics in Louisiana: one each in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Metairie, Shreveport and Bossier City.