Louisiana's abortion law which is said to be among the most rigorous in the nation, was to have gone into effect today, but a federal court order has delayed implementation of that statute for at least 10 days.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Collins issued the order yesterday in connection with a suit filed last month to have the law declared an unconstitutional bar to a woman's right to an abortion. The Louisiana legislature passed the law this summer.
The suit was brought by three abortion clinics, three doctors and a woman identified only as Margaret S., who says she is unemployed and pregnant and wants an abortion. Both sides agreed to Collins' temporary restraining order, which may be renewed after 10 days.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision allowing abortions says the decision to abort is up to the woman and her doctor during the first three months of pregnancy. During the second three months of pregnancy, the ruling says, all the state can do is regulate abortion procedures to ensure they are reasonably related to maternal health."
In the suit, the plaintiffs claim the new Louisiana abortion law is designed to "impede and/or prevent pregnant women from obtaining abortions." They contend the statute "interferes with a woman's constitutional right to an abortion in the first six months of pregnancy.
Among the requirements of the law the suit attacks are:
Abortions must be perfomed in hospitals, not abortion clinics.
Parents of an unmarried pregnant woman under the age of 18 must be informed if she wants an abortion.
A doctor must wait 24 hours after a woman or her family signs a consent form and must certify the waiting period has been honored before he can perform the abortion.
The suit also attacks the "informed consent" section of the law, which requires that a woman who wants an abortion must acknowledge in writing that she has been told.
The unborn child is "a human life from the moment of conception."
The child may be able to survive outside the womb if the woman is more than 22 weeks pregnant, and the doctor has to try to preserve the infant's life.
Abortion is a "major surgical procedure which can result in serious complications."
A wide variety of agencies exists to help her if she chooses not to undergo an abortion.
The plaintiffs dispute the statement in the law that calls a fetus a human being from the moment of conception.
That sentence, the suit says, "constitutes enactment into law of one religious belief concerning abortions and the nature of the fetus and constitutes the imposition of that religious view on women who would otherwise choose abortion in accordance with their religious or nonreligious beliefs."
This law, the suit says also interferes with a doctor's right to perform abortions.
Besides Margaret S., the plaintiffs are three abortion clinics - Delta Women's Clinic, Orleans Women's Clinic and Causeway Medical Suite - and Drs. Roy C. Wood, Calvin Jackson and Duncan McKellar, all of the New Orleans area.