Louisiana Rescinds Anti-Choice Regulation After Planned Parenthood Challenge

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Louisiana Rescinds Anti-Choice Regulation After Planned Parenthood Challenge

Teddy Wilson

The Planned Parenthood Center for Choice will be able to move forward with a plan to expand access to abortion care in New Orleans.

The Planned Parenthood Center for Choice will be able to move forward with a plan to expand access to abortion care after the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) did away with regulations that may have prevented Planned Parenthood from opening a new facility in New Orleans.

A policy requiring any new abortion provider to apply for “facility need review” went into effect in 2012 under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

Planned Parenthood submitted an application for a “facility need review” in October 2014, and in January the DHH denied Planned Parenthood’s application. The department claimed in a letter that the organization “failed to establish the probability of serious, adverse consequences to recipients’ ability to access outpatient abortion services if you are not allowed to apply for licensure.”

The decision effectively vetoed abortion services at the new health center.

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Planned Parenthood challenged that decision in February, and the DHH offered to review additional information demonstrating the need for expanding women’s health-care services in New Orleans and agreed to withdraw its initial denial notice.

The DHH explained in a letter last week that it had rescinded its requirement that abortion facilities obtain a “facility need review” to offer abortion services. The department offered no explanation for the decision.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement praising the decision as a “major victory for the women of Louisiana” who will have increased access to reproductive health care.

“Planned Parenthood will stop at nothing to fight for the patients who rely on us for care, in Louisiana and across the country,” Richards said.

Planned Parenthood can now move forward with the application process for the $4 million, 7,000-square-foot health center that will be the third clinic to provide abortion care in New Orleans, and the fifth clinic in the entire state. The application process includes a $600 licensing fee, submission of a detailed floor plan of the facility to the DHH, and occupancy approval from the Office of Public Health and the Fire Marshal’s office.

This decision to rescind the requirement for a “facility need review” comes after the DHH had recently revised its abortion clinic licensing standards, sparking a firestorm of criticism for the standards’ broad scope that reproductive rights advocates say goes beyond what the law requires.

Reagan Carter, senior director of external services at the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, said in a statement that the new facility would offer legal abortion and a full range of reproductive health care at the health center in New Orleans when it opens next year. Those services include cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and HIV screening.

“When this health center opens, Planned Parenthood will more than double the number of women and men we serve in Louisiana,” Carter said.