New abortion rules for La. clinics

By From staff and wire reports

BATON ROUGE — Abortion rights supporters say new rules enacted for abortion clinics by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration

will make it nearly impossible for the state’s five clinics to stay open.

When it issued the regulations, the Department of Health and Hospitals said they were designed to comply with new laws passed

last year and to clarify licensing requirements.

But the rules go beyond new restrictions enacted by legislators, some say.

Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans lawyer

advising the state’s abortion clinics, said the 20 pages of rewritten

regulations add

requirements that seem intended to shutter the facilities. She

said the state added new paperwork filings, larger size mandates

and increased staffing requirements and also eliminated certain

appeal rights for clinics.

The prior regulations “were sufficient

to protect health and safety, and they at least made it possible for

clinics to comply

with them,” Schilling said. “Now, DHH has basically given itself a

whole arsenal of medically unnecessary and arbitrary rules

that it can cite facilities for.”

She said citations can be used to make clinics look repeatedly noncompliant with regulations and to revoke their licenses.

DHH spokeswoman Olivia Watkins said

Wednesday that the regulations are aimed at protecting health and safety

and were extensively

revamped to consolidate two years of rule changes into one place.

“Licensing rules for outpatient abortion facilities were located in various portions of the Louisiana Revised Statute, making

it complicated for providers to have a single source for all applicable rules,” Watkins said in an emailed statement.

“During provider surveys, it became

clear that providers were unaware of some licensing mandates and were

cited for noncompliance,”

she said.

A public hearing on the new licensing standards is scheduled for Feb. 4.

Already the health department has announced plans to rework some of the new regulations amid the criticism.

Watkins said DHH will rescind language

that required a pregnant woman to get a blood test 30 days before she

could seek an

abortion. Critics said that added a 30-day waiting period not

required under state law and could make it impossible for some

women to get an abortion before the 20-week deadline of pregnancy.

Watkins said the wording was incorrect and would be removed.

“The intent was to say that blood test results be provided to facilities at least 24 hours prior to a procedure being done

to give time for doctors to clinically review lab results,” she said.

The health department also will tweak the size requirements to cover new facilities or clinics undergoing renovations, Watkins

said.

“The square footage cited in the rule follows standards for other outpatient medical providers,” she said.

Abortion rights supporters said those changes won’t address all their concerns.

The rewritten regulations make clinics apply for new licenses if they move to a new location or change management, and then

tougher licensing requirements kick in, Schilling said.

“It just seems clear that their intent is to shut clinics down, and this set of regulations gives them so many ways to do

it,” Schilling said.

Louisiana has among the toughest abortion restrictions in the nation.

Five clinics offer the procedure in

Shreveport, Bossier City, Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area. Planned

Parenthood is

building a facility in New Orleans that would provide abortions,

but Schilling said the new regulations would make it difficult

for the clinic to obtain a license.

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the anti-abortion organization Louisiana Right to Life, said DHH is putting standards

in place that will protect women from unsafe conditions in abortion facilities.

“The abortion industry in Louisiana

looks to cut costs and maximize the number of abortions its facilities

sell to the women

of Louisiana. Because of this, it is necessary for the DHH to

continually review its regulations of this dangerous industry,”

he said in a written statement.

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Online:

Louisiana’s new abortion rules are viewable at: http://1.usa.gov/1hNkcNg