In November, the DHH issued 21 pages of "emergency" administrative rules for abortions and abortion clinics that would have made it extremely difficult for women to obtain the procedure except in rare circumstances without going out of state.
Drafted without a public hearing or the input of affected stakeholders, the draconian rules would have required a 30-day waiting period for abortions and mandated physical changes for abortion clinics and licensing procedures that state authorities could have used to immediately close all five of the legal facilities still operating in Louisiana. That would have amounted to an effective ban on abortion for most women, especially for those with low incomes who could not afford the expense and time off work to travel outside Louisiana.
The 30-day waiting period would have increased women's health risks and taken them closer to the 20-week limit on abortions that Louisiana has imposed. That limit has been blocked elsewhere by the federal courts.
You can read more about this situation below the fold.
The proposed rules represent yet another version of "TRAP" rules and legislation (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) that the forced-birther movement has been pushing for decades to undermine women's reproductive rights. Though in no way required by statute, the rules were supposed to go into effect Nov. 20, but state officials had yet to start enforcing them. Louisiana DHH finally scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday morning in Baton Rouge that has now been postponed.
Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check quotes Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans attorney who represents several Louisiana abortion clinics:
“They’re tripling the size of what procedure rooms need to be,” said Schilling. “Nobody else has to comply with this, even general hospitals don’t have requirements like this for procedure rooms, separate recovery rooms.” The rules even dictate what specific kind of flooring materials abortion facilities must use. [...]Some specifics:
“None of the abortion care providers in Louisiana were aware of these new regulations until they were published as emergency rules,” said Kathaleen Pittman, an administrator at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport. “We were allowed no input in drafting them.”
• Women seeking abortions would have had to have their hemoglobin and rh factor tested at least 30 days prior to the procedure. Testing for rh factor is completely unnecessary and the hemoglobin test should be done as close as to the procedure as possible since iron levels fluctuate widely.
• Applications for new clinic licenses require a "certificate of need" that proves the necessity of the services. Even existing clinics would have had to apply for a new license if they moved. Critics say these requirements are highly subjective giving the state authority to reject licenses on flimsy grounds.
• No right of appeal would be allowed to any body outside the DHH. Thus, if the DHH claims a clinic violates a rule, that finding can stand unchallenged "and those deficiencies are often later used to revoke a clinic’s license on the basis of being a 'repeat' offender," Grimes reports.
For those who cannot attend the upcoming hearing but wish to submit comments, you can email them, together with your full name and address, to the New Orleans Abortion Fund (email@example.com). The fund will print the letters hand-deliver them to officials at the hearing.