Earlier this month, Americans United for Life ranked Louisiana as 2013's No. 1 pro-life state (beating Texas!). Now, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is pitching in to make sure it hangs on to the top spot this year. According to the reproductive rights blog RH Reality Check, new “emergency” abortion regulations in the state require women to wait 30 days to have an abortion. Patients now must get blood tests a month prior to the procedure date. Louisiana has already banned abortions after the 20-week mark, so this new rule would require women to get blood tests by around the 15-week mark to obtain a legal abortion. A fetus is not viable until the 24th week of pregnancy.
Update, Tuesday 9:28 am: A DHH spokesperson told RH that it will "be rescinding the language regarding the 30-day period for blood tests." The hearing on the new rules, originally scheduled for Wednesday morning, has been moved to February 4th in Baton Rouge.
Original: It's not clear why the DHH has chose to implement new regulations. The 30-day rule went into "emergency" effect on November 20, 2013, but clinics claim that it hasn't been enforced. Additionally, the DHH has enacted "new physical plant requirements, licensing procedures, and staffing rules that may soon have the effect of shuttering all five of Louisiana’s legal abortion providers," RH reports.
Clinics will hopefully get clarification at the February 4th hearing. Kathaleen Pittman, an administrator at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, told RH,
None of the abortion care providers in Louisiana were aware of these new regulations until they were published as emergency rules. We were allowed no input in drafting them.
Pittman says that medically, the 30-day rule doesn't even make sense: "Not only is this unjust for the women, it is contraindicated from a medical standpoint, in that hematocrits [one of the blood tests] should be as current as possible." Getting the blood tests and then waiting 30 days to have an abortion procedure isn't smart. And in general, the farther along a woman is in her pregnancy, the more complicated an abortion can be.
It's possible that the DHH is just taking cues from Gov. Bobby Jindal. In 2013 alone, he signed bills that banned abortions after 20 weeks, required that women wait 24 hours between an ultrasound and an abortion, and forced abortion providers to offer to let women hear the fetus' heartbeat. He is proud of Louisiana's number one pro-life ranking.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.