Louisiana may enforce a near-total ban on abortions after a state judge refused to extend an injunction, allowing the state’s so-called abortion trigger law to go into effect on July 8.
The ruling came the same day as President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to protect access to abortion-inducing pills and emergency contraception. It also came amid a flurry of litigation nationwide two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 precedent that overturned state laws and legalized abortion in the United States.
A trigger law is a law that takes effect when a specific event occurs. In this case, Louisiana’s trigger law, enacted in 2006, provides it becomes effective if Roe v. Wade is struck down. The law, one of many abortion restrictions passed in the state in the last few years, forbids abortions except when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. Violations of the law count as felonies and can be punished with 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Louisiana is one of several states with trigger laws predicated on the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Similar laws in Utah and Kentucky have been temporarily blocked by the courts.
Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien said on July 8 that she lacked authority to extend a restraining order recently issued by another judge that prevented the laws from taking effect. Because the lawsuit brought by abortion provider Hope Medical Group for Women claims the laws are unconstitutionally vague, the case must be heard in state court in the state capital of Baton Rouge, according to an Associated Press report.
The abortion provider argued that the trigger laws were unconstitutionally vague because they did not provide any protection against arbitrary enforcement as required by the Due Process Clause of the Louisiana Constitution.
Days after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, the ruling which had held there was a constitutional right to abortion, Robin Giarrusso, who is also a judge of Orleans Parish Civil District Court, granted a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law.
Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, whose office had argued the case should be transferred to the court in Baton Rouge, celebrated Julien’s ruling in a brief Twitter post.
“Fighting and Winning for Louisiana!” he wrote.
Landry added that there were “reports that Biden is planning #abortion executive order. If he does, we will meet it with legal action and defeat him in court again!”
Joanna Wright, a lawyer for plaintiffs fighting the ban, said the case will continue.
“The fight is far from over, and we’re looking forward to litigating the trigger bans before the court of Baton Rouge,” the Washington Post quoted her saying.