NO.abortionno.ADV_118.JPG

Pro-life advocates try talking to a woman entering the Women's Health Care Center in New Orleans on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

A 4-2 Louisiana Supreme Court refused Wednesday night to lift a lower court’s order to temporarily restrain the state from enforcing its ban on all abortions, except to save the mother’s life, until after Friday’s hearing.

Louisiana is one of 13 states with a “trigger law” that automatically ended the terminations of pregnancies by pills or surgical means once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, which it did two weeks ago. All three abortion clinics in the state were to close immediately.

But Orleans Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso last week granted a temporary restraining order, which allowed the clinics to remain open pending the Friday hearing on the merits of the claim. The lawsuit – filed by a Shreveport abortion clinic, physicians, and others –  argues the law is unclear on when the ban takes affect and on medical exceptions to the ban.

Defendants Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips, who serves under Gov. John Bel Edwards, announced Tuesday that they had asked the state Supreme Court to dissolve Giarrusso’s order. They argued the abortion rights plaintiffs “are willfully misreading clear terms in the law in an attempt to manufacture arguments that the statutes are unconstitutionally vague.”

Most of the states with trigger laws have seen challenges in their state district courts.

Louisiana Supreme Court Justices Scott J. Crichton, James T. Genovese, Piper D. Griffin, and Jefferson D. Hughes III declined to get involved “at this preliminary stage of proceedings.” Hughes wrote that the high court’s involvement was “procedurally premature.”

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Chief Justice John L. Weimer recused himself.

Justice William J. Crain disagreed, writing: “I believe the circumstances of this case compel us to review the propriety of the temporary restraining order. The plaintiffs have asserted that they, as doctors, will suffer irreparable harm if the 'triggering' statutes that prohibit abortions go into effect. The contrasting interest is that alleged life will be terminated if the prohibitory statutes do not go into effect. While whether these doctors will suffer irreparable harm by being prohibited from performing abortions is debatable, terminating alleged life during the period of the temporary restraining order is irreparable.”

Justice Jay B. McCallum added in dissent: “Based on the record before us, and the lack of any supporting reasons by the trial court, there has not been a showing that immediate irreparable injury would result before the opposition could be heard and, accordingly, the TRO was improvidently granted.”


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.