Louisiana's new abortion law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. But a lawsuit challenged the law on the basis that the requirement was medically unnecessary and would result in the closure of the state's abortion clinics. A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked the measure.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles said the law cannot be enforced until a hearing is held on whether an order is needed to block it while the case is in court.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement on the group's website that the ruling "ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights."
But Kyle Duncan, who represents the state, said the law is aimed at protecting women.
"They are essentially focused on protecting the patient, such that if there's a complication that requires hospitalization, that patient can have the benefit of her doctor being able to go and provide care for her at the hospital, and so to provide what physicians call continuity of care," he told The Associated Press.
DeGravelles' ruling allows the law to take effect, but doctors who break it can't be penalized. He wrote:
"The Act will be allowed to take effect but Plaintiffs will not be subject to the penalties and sanctions allowed in the statute at this time or in the future for practicing without the relevant admitting privileges during the applications process. Plaintiffs will be allowed to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges."
The AP adds: "Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South. A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion."