One of Louisiana's three remaining abortion clinics is blaming a 2015 rewrite of the state's abortion facility regulations for the dwindling number of such clinics in the state.
Hope Medical Group for Women claims the revamped abortion clinic licensing standards were unnecessary and intended merely to hinder the clinics' operations.
The Shreveport clinic is asking state District Judge Janice Clark, of Baton Rouge, to strike down the rewritten abortion clinic regulations.
"The regulatory burden imposed by the Regulations was a significant factor in the recent closings of two out of the previously five facilities that provide abortions in Louisiana," Hope Medical Group's attorneys argue in a lawsuit filed last month against the Louisiana Department of Health.
Department of Health spokesman Bob Johannessen said Thursday the department cannot comment on pending litigation.
The department has acknowledged previously that some language changes in the rewritten rules go beyond mandates from state lawmakers.
Hope Medical Group calls the revamped rules a "transparent attempt to legislate" by the department.
"The Regulations overhauled the regulatory framework previously in place, vastly expanding its scope, and imposing additional onerous regulations that far exceed the authority which LDH has been delegated," the clinic's suit alleges.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals has gone too far in its proposed rules governin…
But the Department of Health also has described the rule changes as "designed to better protect the health and lives of Louisiana women."
Hope Medical Group contends, however, that "legal abortion is one of the safest procedures in medical practice."
New Orleans lawyer Ellie Schilling, one of the attorneys representing the clinic, declined Friday to elaborate on the lawsuit.
At the time they were published in their final form in April 2015, critics said the rewritten licensing standards were part of a move by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and leaders in conservative Southern states to chip away at access to a legal procedure by adding limitations.
Hope Medical Group argues the 20 pages of regulations not only add burdensome paperwork requirements and demand duplicate filings but also make it easier for Louisiana to cite an abortion clinic for deficiencies and pull its license.
"These requirements do not improve patient health and safety; they simply increase a clinic's administrative tasks, paperwork, and costs to the point of being untenable — especially considering the small medical staff at each facility," the clinic states in its suit.
The state's other abortion clinics are Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge and Women's Health Care Center in New Orleans. Bossier City Medical Suite closed earlier this year, and Causeway Medical Suite in Metairie shut down last year.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Abortion rights advocates say an abortion clinic in northwestern Louisian…
"LDH has the authority under the Regulations to impose fines on a clinic, revoke a clinic's license, or refuse to renew a clinic's license, based on any deficiency cited at a survey — regardless of the severity of the deficiency, and even when LDH has determined that the deficiency does not present any threat to health and safety," Hope Medical Group's suit adds.
The lawsuit also says the regulations allow the department to invalidate an existing facility's license if the clinic decides to change its location.
"This requirement raises due process concerns by ... improperly hindering a clinic's ability to serve its patients in the most appropriate manner, including moving to a new location to account for changing patient needs or due to security concerns," Hope Medical Group alleges.
The regulations, which were proposed in December 2014, sparked more than 1,800 comments filed in opposition.
The suit claims the Department of Health chose not to consider or respond to public comments and to, instead, "hurry" the regulations into law.