Planned Parenthood Center for Choice on Wednesday appealed the Jindal administration’s denial of its application to provide abortion services at a health center under construction in New Orleans.
“The decision was arbitrary and capricious,” Planned Parenthood lawyer Roger Evans said. “There was no basis for denying it.”
Dr. Julie Finger, of New Orleans, said the rejection was “politically motivated” just as other restrictions the state has embraced to limit a woman’s access to legal abortions.
The state rejected Planned Parenthood’s application last month, saying it did not demonstrate the need for another abortion facility in Louisiana.
“Your application failed to establish the probability of serious, adverse consequences to recipients’ ability to access outpatient abortion services if you are not allowed to apply for licensure,” Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert wrote in the rejection letter.
Evans said DHH is wrong in its determination and the agency provided no explanation for its conclusion.
“Based on all of the data out there on abortion rates and number of providers there’s an unmet need in the New Orleans area and throughout the state and even in some of the surrounding territory from there,” Evans said.
Planned Parenthood’s 74-page “Facility Need Review” filing said the New Orleans area needs the capacity for 2,844 more abortions on an annual basis.
DHH did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the Planned Parenthood appeal.
The organization opted to file an administrative appeal of the DHH decision, meaning the case will undergo an independent third-party review by an administrative law judge. If Planned Parenthood fails there, it also has the option to go to court.
“We will pursue every legal option available to us until we open the center,” Evans said.
Under a set of 2012 regulations, the Jindal administration required abortion clinics to undergo the same “facility need review” required of residential care facilities, such as nursing homes and hospice facilities.
The regulations require any outpatient abortion facility to demonstrate its services are needed to preserve access before it can apply for a license to perform abortions in the state. The state health department used those regulations to refuse Planned Parenthood’s application.
Louisiana has five abortion clinics around the state: two in New Orleans and one each in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Bossier City. All have come under attack from anti-abortion interests, and the state Legislature has continued to adopt new laws making it more difficult for them to stay in operation. The latest law includes a provision requiring doctors performing abortions at clinics to also have staff privileges at nearby hospitals that have obstetrics and gynecological services. The physician requirement is being challenged in federal court.
DHH is also in the process of adopting rules and regulations that abortion rights supporters say go further than the law allows.
Planned Parenthood’s $4 million health center would be the third clinic offering abortions in the New Orleans area. Lawmakers tried to slow down construction with regulatory hurdles but were unsuccessful.
There have been construction delays, said Raegan Carter, senior director of external services for Planned Parenthood, “but we are moving forward with building a new facility on Claiborne. … It’s still an active construction site.”
The health center will double the size of Planned Parenthood’s current facility in New Orleans, which offers an array of primary care services, including screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, but doesn’t currently offer abortion services. If it received the necessary approvals from the state, the clinic would be the first Planned Parenthood facility in Louisiana to offer abortions.
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