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Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban goes into effect as court battle continues

Abortion rights advocates protest in front of a New Orleans courthouse on July 8. (Rebecca Santana/AP)
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A near-total ban on abortion went into effect in Louisiana on Friday after a temporary restraining order expired, making the state the 14th to enact a “trigger law” outlawing the procedure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

State District Judge Ethel Julien granted the state’s request to move the case to a court in Baton Rouge — in effect allowing an order halting the ban to expire. Another judge will now decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction to again block the trigger law.

“The fight is far from over, and we’re looking forward to litigating the trigger bans before the court of Baton Rouge,” said Joanna Wright, an attorney for the plaintiffs challenging the ban.

Louisiana’s trigger law, enacted in 2006, prohibits abortions except when a pregnant person’s life is in danger; abortion providers risk being charged with a felony crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The state has passed multiple abortion restrictions in recent years.

“I am personally devastated for patients in Louisiana who are now panicking trying to figure out how to get care,” said Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights who represents the plaintiffs. “But to be clear, this case is by no means over.”

In many states with newly implemented abortion bans, including Louisiana, reproductive rights advocates are fighting in court to undo or weaken some of the most extreme restrictions.

Here are some of the latest state developments on abortion:

  • The New Orleans City Council passed a resolution Thursday to decriminalize abortion in the city, despite the state’s trigger law. The resolution bars the local police department, sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office from using city funds to investigate reports of abortion.
  • In several Texas cities, activists have also proposed local legislation to keep police and prosecutors from investigating abortion. The proposal, called the Grace Act, which stands for Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone, has been presented to local officials in San Antonio, Austin and Denton, Tex.
  • Arizona activists failed to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on abortion on the November ballot. Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom collected more than 175,000 signatures in about two months but fell short of the required 350,000 signatures needed. The state attorney general has argued that a longtime total abortion ban, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life in endangered, is now in effect across Arizona after the reversal of Roe. If the state’s courts decide that law doesn’t apply, the governor signed a new 15-week ban in March.
  • St. Louis’ legislative body signaled Friday that its members support creating a $1 million fund to pay for city residents to get abortions across the border in Illinois, where abortions remain legal. The proposed fund will be financed using coronavirus pandemic aid provided by the federal government. A final vote will take place next week, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.

Aside from Louisiana, the states with trigger laws in effect include: Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio. Utah and Kentucky also have trigger bans, but the courts have temporarily blocked them from taking effect immediately. Idaho, Wyoming and North Dakota have trigger bans that will take effect about a month after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Abortion providers in Louisiana filed for a temporary restraining order to block the state’s trigger law from going into effect June 27, shortly after the Supreme Court released its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. They argued that the trigger law was “constitutionally vague.”

The state’s abortion ban now takes effect on the same day President Biden signed an executive order aimed at supporting abortion access, though he acknowledged that his executive power is limited.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) reacted to the news of Biden’s plans Friday afternoon as the state was gaining the power to enforce its strict abortion laws: “Reports that Biden is planning #abortion executive order,” Landry tweeted. “If he does, we will meet it with legal action and defeat him in court again!”

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