Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

DHH’s new regulations for abortion clinics stir outrage

3rd February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

Louisiana’s pro-choice advocates are in an uproar over new regulations released by Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH). Critics feel these regulations would be tantamount to a backdoor abortion ban.

In late November, the DHH overhauled existing regulations of abortion clinics. Among the new rules was a provision that women would need certain blood tests done 30 days before having an abortion. Since Louisiana already bans abortion after 20 weeks, critics felt this waiting period would force patients to either abandon the procedure entirely or get an illegal abortion.

After strong opposition to this part of the regulations, the DHH announced it would rescind the 30-day waiting period. However, opponents are skeptical that is actually happening.

“They claim that they will, but we haven’t seen any revisions at all,” said Ellie Schilling, an attorney advising Louisiana abortion clinics.

Schilling said the 21 pages of regulations are so convoluted that it will be nearly impossible for a small business to comply with all of them. The changes, which include a minimum square footage for an abortion clinic, will be prohibitively expensive for existing clinics to implement. They will also likely make the prospect of opening a new clinic too expensive for small business owners to consider.

“They’re never going to grant a new license and they’re going to force existing clinics, one way or the other, to apply for a new license and then deny it. That seems to be their intent,” Schilling said. “There is no medical necessity for these changes.”

Louisiana currently has five abortion clinics, with one each in New Orleans, Metairie, Shreve­port, Bossier City and Baton Rouge. In a state where it’s already difficult for a woman to get an abortion and where large portions of the state do not have an abortion clinic, any regulations that would make it easier for the state to shut down clinics will make abortions even harder for local women.

“If adopted as proposed, the new DHH rules threaten to close all five clinics in Louisiana and will force low-income women to leave the state to secure health care, or worse, into unsafe and illegal procedures,” said Amy Irvin, a founding member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund. “Clinic closures affect minority and low-income women the most.”

Abortion is already an expensive proposition for women, as Medicaid and other public funds do not cover abortion services. If clinics in Louisiana close, then these women will also have to pay additional travel and lodging costs on top of the price of the abortion itself.

Critics are also angered by the fact that public input was not taken into consideration for what the DHH termed “emergency” regulations.

“Why were they emergencies?” Irvin asked.

A public hearing was scheduled for January 29, but due to the severe winter weather, the hearing was pushed back to Tuesday, February 4, at 1:00 p.m. in room 173 of the Bienville Building on North Fourth Street in Baton Rouge.

The regulations need to be totally rewritten with clinic input and public comment,” Irvin said.

The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

This article originally published in the February 3, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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