A lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s pro-life legislation will be allowed to continue, but the state is confident that it will prevail after the lower court re-examines whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the regulations.
The 5th Circuit’s Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the case altogether, but also stated that those suing the state did not have standing for many of their claims, and that the case never should have been allowed to go forward.
The case was heard by Chief Judge Priscilla Owen, along with Judges Don Willett and Andrew Oldham.
The state was being sued by an abortion clinic and two doctors, who were seeking an injunction blocking “virtually all of Louisiana’s legal framework for regulating abortion.” They argued that even if some of the regulations and provisions were constitutional, the entirety of them as a whole were not.
The panel of judges on the court said that a good number of the things the plaintiffs were challenging do not meet the legal standard to actually bring a case to court.
“Plaintiffs challenge a bevy of legal provisions that appear incapable of injuring them,” said the opinion. The plaintiffs stated they were attempting to get an injunction under what they have termed the “cumulative effects” theory.
“The plaintiffs’ theory, as we understand it, is that Louisiana’s various laws and regulations regarding abortion cumulate to an undue burden,” said the opnion. “But before any federal court can analyze the ‘cumulative effects’ of Louisiana’s laws, we must know which laws plaintiffs have standing to challenge. Again, jurisdiction first.”
Among the provisions challenged in the case are regulations concerning the privacy of medical records, a law that forbids abortion facilities from having a name that would make someone think the state is operating the facility, laws that require the suspected sexual abuse of a child be reported to authorities, and a law that requires abortion facilities to have clean bathrooms. The opinion stated that it is simply not possible for the plaintiffs to claim that they have been somehow harmed by these laws.
The opinion also contained a list of 10 provisions that were challenged in court by the plaintiffs without alleging how or if the regulations actually applied to them. These included regulations regarding proper flooring and wall finishes for new or relocated abortion facilities, regulations regarding laundry facilities at clinics with “in-house laundry,” and provisions requiring that only “qualified medical staff” and “qualified nursing staff” be employed at abortion facilities.
The judges said that the plaintiffs did not properly explain how these regulations actually applied to them, as their clinic was not relocating, nor were the plaintiffs seeking to hire unqualified medical staff at the clinic.
Louisiana’s attorney general was hopeful about the future of the case.
“This lawsuit was always an overreach—it was filed by abortion clinics and doctors with poor safety records to evade regulation, even on common sense safety measures that benefit and protect women,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “We are gratified that the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed very basic rules that apply when State laws are challenged in federal courts.”