Louisiana legislation aimed at discouraging Planned Parenthood from offering abortions at its New Orleans clinic won’t stop it from seeking a license to provide the procedure, the organization’s national leader said Wednesday.
Cecile Richards, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said she believes the bill pushed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to block Medicaid financing for entities that perform abortions in Louisiana is unconstitutional.
House Bill 606 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, received final legislative passage this week. The Democratic governor intends to sign it into law.
Despite the bill’s passage, Richards said Planned Parenthood’s new clinic opening next month in New Orleans “absolutely” intends to continue with plans to apply for an abortion license from the state, though she provided no timeline for such an application.
“It’s a legal medical service, not only in the country, but even in the state of Louisiana,” she said. “And it’s really important that women can get the full spectrum of reproductive health care services.”
During debate on the bill, supporters said they don’t want tax dollars to flow to clinics that offer abortions, even though Medicaid money can’t pay for abortions. They said they hoped the legislation will dissuade Planned Parenthood from providing abortions at its New Orleans facility once it opens.
“All of us understand the importance of life,” Ben Nevers, the governor’s chief of staff, told lawmakers as he urged support of the bill during one hearing.
Federal health officials have warned that such efforts may violate the law, and a federal judge has blocked previous Louisiana efforts to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.
Asked whether Planned Parenthood would file a lawsuit challenging the bill once it’s signed, Richards replied: “As we take these assaults on women’s health across the country, we will do whatever it takes to provide women in Louisiana the same access to services as women in other states. Litigation is one of the tools that we will look at.”
The Planned Parenthood CEO was in New Orleans on Wednesday to celebrate the end of construction of its new health clinic. When it opens next month, Richards said, the facility is expected to double the number of patients Planned Parenthood sees in the city each year, currently about 6,000.
“It’s the kind of health center every woman deserves,” she said.
Lawmakers tried to slow construction of the $4 million facility with regulatory hurdles but were unsuccessful.
The new clinic will double the size of the organization’s current 35-year-old facility, which offers a wide array of primary care services, including screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
If it were to receive the necessary approvals from the state, the clinic would be the first Planned Parenthood facility in Louisiana to offer abortions.