Delta Clinic

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG - Protesters outside Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, Inc. in March 2016.

Abortion restrictions that Louisiana lawmakers enacted in 2016 have put women's access to the legal procedure "in a very precarious state," an attorney for one of Louisiana's three remaining clinics argued to a Baton Rouge federal judge Tuesday.

Hope Medical Group for Woman and its doctors are challenging the constitutionality of the measures passed in 2016, including tripling the waiting period for many women seeking an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, and requiring doctors performing abortions to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology or family medicine.

The laws' backers contend they are designed to protect women's health, but the lawyers contesting them argue the regulations impose unconstitutional burdens on the clinics — which once numbered 11 in Louisiana — and the women they serve.

"The burdens are mounting and at some point the branch will break," Shannon Selden, one of the attorneys for the Shreveport clinic and its doctors, told Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson during a hearing Tuesday on a lawsuit the clinic filed last year to halt the new laws.

Selden argued that a provision allowing for unannounced, warrantless inspections of abortion clinics is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Those inspections also implicate the doctor-patient privilege, she added.

Stephen Schwartz, an attorney for the state, countered that abortion clinics, like nursing homes, are highly regulated and should be subjected to such searches.

Jackson noted that urologists, cardiologists and other doctors, for example, are not inspected in the same way.

"Why should there be a carve-out for abortion providers?" the judge asked.

Jackson also stated that patient information is "very sensitive private information" and said there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

The judge took Tuesday's arguments under advisement and said he will issue a ruling in the next couple of weeks. The state, which has agreed not to enforce the laws while they are in court, has asked Jackson to dismiss the suit.

Louisiana's other abortion clinics are Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge and Women's Health Care Center in New Orleans.

Editor's note: The caption to a file photo accompanying the online version of this article was changed on Jan. 30, 2018. It had erroneously said Baton Rouge's Delta Clinic was closing. The clinic is not closing.   

  

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