Louisiana’s attorney general is applauding a federal court order to unseal documents and records that abortion providers have fought to keep secret.
“Now the public may be able to see the full record in cases where abortion providers are seeking to minimize regulation against a backdrop of documented health and safety violations, destruction of medical records, and medical malpractice,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stated on Tuesday.
In a 28-page order written on Jan. 28 and published Feb. 2, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered June Medical Services, LLC and other abortion facilities to unseal a number of documents; the order allowed for the redaction of sensitive information.
June Medical Services is one of the Louisiana abortion facilities that won its case at the Supreme Court in June, 2020; the clinic, along with several other pro-abortion groups, had challenged a state law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The state had argued that its law was in the interest of women’s safety. On Tuesday, Landry said that the court order would allow public access to “critical information” about the safety of women at the abortion clinics.
“For too long, the public has been barred from critical information regarding the safety of women and girls in Louisiana,” Landry stated. “The State has fought for more open access; yet journalists and elected officials alike were prohibited from accessing public facts only because they had become part of the court’s record.”
While allowing some documents to be made public, the court permitted other documents containing sensitive information to remain sealed.
Landry said that previous efforts by June Medical Services, LLC to keep documents sealed was an “affront to the First Amendment.”
He alleged that the abortion clinics were fighting for deregulation even as they were violating health and safety standards.
Landry said the federal court’s decision was “a victory for transparency and public safety,” and said that he will continue to safeguard women’s health in the state.
Louisiana enacted stricter regulations on abortion records in 2018 and again in 2019. The state increased penalties for the falsification of records at abortion clinics, and required clinics to retain the medical records of women for a longer period of time.
Safety standards at abortion clinics were also the subject of court battles after the 2014 admitting privileges law went into effect.
Pro-abortion groups challenged the law, alleging that it would pose an “undue burden” on women having abortions.
Meanwhile, the state argued before the Supreme Court that there were documented instances of safety violations at the clinics that necessitated the law’s regulations. In one case, an abortionist testified that he transferred four women to a hospital for abortion-related hemorrhaging, Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill told Supreme Court justices at the March, 2020 oral arguments.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the law in 2019, finding that only one doctor was unable to obtain admitting privileges and that other abortionists had not made a good-faith effort to comply with the law.
On Tuesday, Landry said that women having abortions “should never be able to supercede safety.”
“I will continue to defend laws that ensure the health and safety of women and girls from abortion providers in Louisana who do not comply with the laws and regulations of our State,” he said.