Louisiana high court leaves abortion bans on hold

July 7, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the state attorney general’s request to allow immediate enforcement of state laws against most abortions in a 4-to-2 ruling late Wednesday.

The majority said only that the court declined to get involved “at this preliminary stage.”

Louisiana’s new laws included so-called triggers to make them take effect as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court reversed abortion rights. But a state judge in New Orleans blocked enforcement until he could hear a lawsuit claiming the law is unclear about medical exceptions and when the ban takes effect.

“We look forward to the preliminary injunction hearing on Friday” in district court, said Joanna Wright, an attorney for the north Louisiana abortion clinic that filed the suit, along with others.

Attorney General Jeff Landry tweeted, “Louisiana Supreme Court is delaying the inevitable. Our Legislature fulfilled their constitutional duties, and now the Judiciary must. It is disappointing that time is not immediate.”

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Landry’s request to lift the hold is premature, Justice Jefferson Hughes III, one of the majority, wrote in a concurring opinion. He said the case should go through district and appellate courts before coming to the state’s high court.

Justices William Crain and Jay McCallum disagreed with Hughes and Chief Justice John Weimer stepped aside from the case.

McCallum wrote that plaintiffs hadn’t shown that enforcing the laws before the case could be heard would cause “immediate irreparable injury,” so the hold should be dissolved.

Crain wrote that “these circumstances are at least as compelling as others” where the state’s highest court has stepped in.

“While whether these doctors will suffer irreparable harm by being prohibited from performing abortions is debatable, terminating alleged life during the period of the temporary restraining order is irreparable,” he wrote.

He also said the justices should step in now to analyze whether the laws were unconstitutionally vague.

Landry’s July 1 filing contended that abortion rights advocates who filed the suit “are willfully misreading clear terms in the law in an attempt to manufacture arguments that the statutes are unconstitutionally vague.”

Abortion rights supporters responded that the district court or a state appeal court needed to fully consider and rule before the case goes to the Louisiana Supreme Court.