Thursday, October 6, 2022

Louisiana judge temporarily blocks “trigger law” on abortion

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A Louisiana judge on Monday temporarily blocked the state from imposing its ban on abortion, the result of a “trigger law” that prohibited the procedure as soon as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The order followed a lawsuit by abortion providers alleging that the law, designed to take effect automatically if the Supreme Court struck down Roe, are “constitutionally vague.” A hearing is pending next week.

Thirteen states across the country had trigger laws on the books when the court struck down Roe on Friday, ending the guarantee to a right to abortion in place for nearly 50 years. In several states, including Louisiana, those laws took effect immediately, halting abortion care across the state.

Louisiana has passed multiple trigger laws since 2006.

On Monday, Judge Robin M. Giarrusso simply approved the application for a temporary injunction and set a hearing for July 8 in the Civil District Court for the Orleans Parish. There was no immediate additional comment from Giarrusso on the merits of the case.

In their suit, the abortion providers argue that it’s impossible to tell which, if any, of the state’s trigger laws are in effect and exactly what conduct is prohibited.

“In a stunning state of affairs, the day [the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling] was issued, state and local officials issued conflicting statements about whether and which trigger laws were actually in effect and thus what conduct — if any — was prohibited,” the providers say. “Due process requires more.”

The abortion providers are arguing that, to criminalize something, people need to know exactly what is being criminalized and when, said Mary Ziegler, a law professor who specializes in abortion.

“They’re saying, ‘we need to know the rules of the game from the beginning,’” Ziegler said — and that the trigger law is too “ambiguous” to take effect.

Supreme Court ruling leaves states free to outlaw abortion

The suit has been filed on behalf of the Hope Medical Group for Women, among others, with the backing of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The suit names Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, and health secretary.

Some antiabortion group leaders had anticipated that courts may block trigger laws.

Students for Life, a national antiabortion organization, has been encouraging antiabortion states to pass more than one law banning abortion, so the states can activate backup legislation if their first law is successfully challenged.

“The more things you can pass and the more things you can push through, the harder it’s going to be for the abortion lobby to file a blanket lawsuit to stop it,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life.

Many people were critical of Oklahoma this year when Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a series of abortion bans, Hawkins said, but that was a strategy to ensure abortion would remain illegal in the state.

Ultimately, the injunction on Louisiana’s trigger ban will almost certainly be lifted, Ziegler said.

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