A judge in Louisiana blocked the state from enforcing a near-total ban on abortions for the second time Tuesday, temporarily allowing the procedure amid a legal back-and-forth after the US Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Judge Donald Johnson issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state’s abortion ban while a high-profile legal challenge moves forward in the capital, Baton Rouge. Another judge had previously issued a temporary restraining order to stop the state’s three abortion bans from taking effect last month, but yet another judge said last week that the court did not have the authority to do so, immediately outlawing abortions once again.
Johnson’s latest ruling will effectively allow abortion services in the state to resume until at least July 18, when he holds a hearing on the matter.
The legal maneuvering has forced Louisianans and abortion providers to scramble as they figure out how to operate in the state’s post-Roe system. The New York Times noted that one of the state’s few remaining abortion clinics, in Shreveport, said it would resume services for at least the next few days, calling the conflicting rulings “insane” and “stressful.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry lambasted the judge’s ruling, saying the people “have spoken both directly at the ballot box and through their elected legislature again and again and again.”
“To have the judiciary create a legal circus is disappointing and what discredits the institutions we rely on for a stable society,” Landry wrote on Twitter. “The rule of law must be followed, and I will not rest until it is. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a little bit longer for that to happen.”
“Any society that places themselves before their children (the future) does not last,” he concluded.
Abortion rights groups hailed the ruling, saying it was an “incredible relief for people who need abortion care right now in Louisiana.”
“Abortion care in the state can resume today, and further irreparable harm has been avoided,” Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Our work continues and we now look ahead to our hearing on Monday, where we will ask the judge to block the bans more permanently. Every hour and every day that a clinic can still provide abortion care fundamentally changes the lives of people for the better.”
Louisiana was one of several states that had so-called trigger laws on the books that made abortion bans go into effect as soon as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last month. But health care providers quickly sued to stop them from moving forward.
The New York Times reported that Louisiana’s State Constitution does not provide a right to abortion, granting lawmakers the ability to pass laws restricting the procedure. But women’s rights groups and abortion providers have sued, saying the trigger laws violate due process and are “void for vagueness.”
The laws provide an exception for patients who have “medically futile” pregnancies but gives no definition for what that means or what conditions would qualify for those who seek an abortion, The Associated Press reported.
The law does not include exceptions for victims of rape or incest.