Restraining Order on Louisiana Ultrasound Law Lifted

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson dissolved a temporary restraining order that he had placed on the Louisiana “Ultrasound Before Abortion Act.”  The order, which had been instituted at the request of lawyers with the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, was dissolved after the involved parties signed a stipulation eliminating ambiguities in the Act.

“As we expected, the baseless lawsuit promoted by the Louisiana abortion industry to temporarily stall our ‘Ultrasound Before Abortion Act’ has been cleared up,” said Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation. “This life-saving piece of legislation will now go into effect in abortion facilities across Louisiana.”

The law requires abortionists to perform an ultrasound on a woman at least two hours before her child is aborted.  Abortion facility employees will be required to follow a detailed script, which will instruct them to inform mothers that they have the option at any time to see the ultrasound image, to hear a description of it, or to receive a printout.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, representing six abortion facilities and an abortionist, had filed suit against the law, alleging that the law was “unconstitutionally vague” and did not specify whether the law required the abortuary to force the woman to receive the printout.

Judge Tyson’s decision followed a joint stipulation filed by the plaintiffs and by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), which specifies that Louisiana’s ultrasound law requires the printout to be offered but does not require the provider to compel the woman to accept it.

“For the first time in Louisiana’s history,” said Clapper, “abortionists will be required to offer women seeking abortion the opportunity to see the ultrasound image, hear a description of the image, and receive a print-out of the ultrasound. We look forward to seeing the positive results of this legislation in our state.”

The order dismisses the Louisiana officials named as defendants, including Attorney General James D. Caldwell and Interim Secretary Tony Keck of the Department of Health and Hospitals.

“We congratulate the Louisiana Attorney General’s office for successfully obtaining a judgment that clears the way for informed decisions,” said Dorina Bordlee, Senior Counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund, which drafted the legislation and provided pro bono legal advice to the Attorney General’s office.

“Science tells us when life begins,” she continued, “but the real question is when love begins. Legislative testimony confirmed that for many abortion-minded women, love began when they had the opportunity to see their unborn child on an ultrasound screen.”

The law also requires abortion facilities to provide the woman with a list of facilities that provide free ultrasound services at least 24 hours before a scheduled abortion.  Clinics had argued that they were going to be forced to shut down for violating the law, as the state had not yet supplied the list.

The joint stipulation provides that this provision will be enforced only after the Louisiana DHH distributes the list.

“Once we have the list of providers we can send out, then it is enforceable and we will enforce it. Until then, it is our position that the law is unenforceable,” DHH spokeswoman Lisa Faust said.

Another CRR challenge remains extant; this one regards the constitutionality of a state law exempting abortionists from malpractice coverage when conducting abortions on “an uncomplicated and viable pregnancy” posing no risk to the life of the mother.

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