NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a new order blocking the state from enforcing a law that he says would keep most women from getting abortions.
Attorneys for the state immediately asked Judge John deGravelles to stay Wednesday's order while they appeal it and his Jan. 26 finding that the law is unconstitutional.
After a phone conference late Wednesday, the judge said he will decide whether to suspend his order after getting written arguments from lawyers for three abortion clinics, with 5 p.m. Friday as the deadline for those briefs. The state's attorney said he did not want to file briefs, deGravelles noted.
The law requires doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles. Supporters say that would protect women's health. Opponents say it would make it impossible to get abortions.
DeGravelles said in January that of six doctors performing abortions in Louisiana, only two meet the requirement, and one of them has said he would quit if the law is enforced.
The remaining doctor performed nearly 30 percent of all abortions in the state, deGravelles said. He said forcing the other five doctors out of their clinics would therefore leave about 70 percent of the women who want abortions unable to get one.
Even if the second doctor who has admitting privileges continued to perform abortions, about 55 percent of the women who want the procedure would be unable to get one, deGravelles wrote.
The judge has not made a final ruling in the case. January's findings were about whether he could bar enforcement of the law until he does so. Wednesday's preliminary injunction replaces a temporary order.
Lawyers for the state said in Wednesday's request that they think the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will probably overturn deGravelles' findings for two reasons.
They said the judge's analysis of the number of women likely to be affected used a procedure very different from the one used by the same court when it upheld a similar law in Texas. The 5th Circuit's procedure would have indicated that the law is constitutional because more than 90 percent of all women of reproductive age are within 150 miles of an abortion clinic, the attorneys' motion said.
They also took issue with deGravelles' ruling that a third doctor's privileges do not meet the law's requirements even though Kathy Kleibert, who was then health secretary, testified that she would accept them.