Why Louisiana Won't Let Planned Parenthood Open A New Abortion Clinic

Following a string of newly enacted anti-abortion laws, Louisiana is down to just five abortion clinics. The future of those clinics isn't a sure thing, as the state has attempted over the last year to shutter the remaining facilities with yet another anti-abortion measure. Planned Parenthood, which currently runs just two health centers in the state, decided to step in and open a new clinic in New Orleans, but there's one little problem: Louisiana health officials are trying to block Planned Parenthood from expanding abortion and other women's health services at all costs.

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice filed an appeal against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, alleging that the region is in dire need of an additional abortion provider. The appeal comes just a few weeks after the health department rejected Planned Parenthood's application for a new, all-encompassing clinic that would provide abortions as well as other reproductive health services.

Planned Parenthood has been planning this New Orleans clinic for a while now, and even showcases a visual rendering of the proposed facility on the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast website. But opening abortion clinics in Louisiana has become an exhaustive ordeal under Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.

In 2012, the Louisiana health department has barred abortion providers from opening in the state unless they apply for and pass a "facilities need review" (FNR) test. According to state law, the process requires abortion providers to prove that an abortion facility is needed, placing the burden on the applicants to come up with the statistical data and "establish the probability of serious, adverse consequences to individuals' ability to access outpatient abortion clinic services." The FNR application review process takes no longer than 60 days, according to the health department.

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The health department will only approve the FNR if the abortion provider can "establish" this need and why it could have a negative impact on women in the state. According to WDSU News in New Orleans, the health department said Planned Parenthood failed to show a "need" for an additional abortion clinic.

But what health officials considered a "need" is debatable. In its application, Planned Parenthood submitted expert analysis that concluded an estimated 48 percent of women living in southeastern Louisiana who would need an abortion are unable to access safe and legal services.

Representatives at Planned Parenthood for Choice believe this is just another case of an anti-abortion administration trying to circumvent Roe v. Wade through backdoor measures. Lawmakers have been busy crafting new legislation — including the admitting privileges requirement currently tied up in court — that would shutter all but two clinics in Louisiana.

The Louisiana health department has also recently proposed tighter regulations on abortion clinics that would essentially turn over clinic operations to the state. The Advocate reported last week that these new 20 pages of regulations include rules such as physically documenting the details and skills of each employee.

Louisiana already has a batch of abortion restrictions on the books, including a 24-hour waiting period, mandated state-directed counseling discouraging women from the procedure, parental consent, forced ultrasound where the patient must look and hear a description of the image, and an all-out ban on telemedicine abortions.

Raegan Carter, senior director of external services, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, said on Wednesday in a statement:

All women and families deserve the highest quality care no matter who they are and where they live. It’s clear that politicians and special interest groups will stop at nothing to end access to safe, legal abortion for the women of Louisiana. Planned Parenthood will do everything possible to fight for the women of Louisiana. Our new health center will open and when it does, it will double the number of women receiving care from Planned Parenthood.

Images: Getty Images, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast