Judge partially blocks state's new abortion law, which takes effect Monday
The law, which the Legislature passed this year, requires each doctor performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Four doctors challenged the law, claiming that physicians haven't had enough time to get those privileges. As a result, they said, the law would force the state's five abortion clinics to close.
In his temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge John de Gravelles of Baton Rouge said the four doctors will be allowed to continue providing abortions without fear of prosecution until he rules on a motion for a preliminary injunction.
The doctors' risk of being fined and losing their licenses outweighs any injury to the state, de Gravelles said.
A status conference on the application for an injunction will be held in 30 days.
Kyle Duncan, attorney for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said the judgement was mostly positive since the law will still go into effect for most people Monday.
The ruling doesn't change much, he said, because the state already had agreed not to penalize plaintiffs while they seek admitting privileges.
The judge's order "doesn't go beyond what the department has already agreed to," Duncan said.
The plaintiffs' attorney, William Rittenberg, said his clients were pleased with the ruling.
"It's what we asked the judge to do, so we're very happy with it," said William Rittenberg, the plaintiffs' attorney. "The other side said they had no 'intent.' That gave us no satisfaction, and it gave the judge no satisfaction."
Ben Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said de Gravelles' ruling has a silver lining because the law will take effect Monday, except for the four plaintiffs.
"We think it's a fair decision," he said, "and we look forward to full implementation."
Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, who wrote the bill, called the ruling a victory because it exempted only the four plaintiffs.
"I'm pleased with the court's ruling," she said.
Louisiana's law is similar to one in Texas. De Gravelles' ruling is similar to the judicial response to Texas' statute.
John Pope contributed to this article.