Monday, January 27, 2014

updated: LOUISIANA IS ABOUT TO CLOSE ITS ABORTION CLINICS AND NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT

EDIT 1/29/14: DATE AND ROOM CHANGE -- the hearing is now TUESDAY, FEB 4 AT 1PM, Room 173. Email fight4RJLA@gmail.com for info or to get more involved.


Oh, Lawd. I am online bright and early to share this news uncovered by some fellow abortioneers in Louisiana. It's scary and needs immediate attention, so please forgive this hasty reblog (from the folks at New Orleans Abortion Fund, with their permission) and take action quickly: show up for the hearing on Wednesday, or write a letter/email for DHH by Tuesday -- see details in purple below.
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URGENT: Hearing on "backdoor abortion ban," new clinic regulations in Louisiana

It may not be easy to get excited over 21 pages of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals regulations, but you'll want to hear about this!

Just before Thanksgiving, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued new "emergency" regulations that overhauled the existing regulations on abortion clinics. These 21 pages of rules give DHH the authority to immediately shut down a clinic without opportunity for appeal, even for simple infractions. Clinics have stated that they would be unable to meet the burdensome and excessive requirements, and this would lead to the closure of all five clinics in Louisiana.

DHH's new regulations are another manifestation of the "TRAP" (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws that are sweeping the country. They represent an effective ban on abortion, especially for the low-income women that NOAF serves, who cannot afford to travel. Here are some examples of new provisions:
  • Patients must have documented in their charts that hemoglobin and Rh factor lab tests were performed at least 30 days prior to the abortion procedure. This means that some patients will risk being beyond the 20 week deadline in Louisiana (and earlier than that at most clinics) to have an abortion, and will add to the procedure costs for all patients, as they will have to wait an additional month.
  • Each clinic who is applying for a new license must submit a "certificate of need" to the State proving the need for their services. In many other circumstances, such as any change to the location or the ownership of an existing clinic, existing clinics must apply for a brand-new license and (re-)satisfy the certificate of need requirement. The subjective nature of these requirements allows the State to severely restrict new licenses and will provide the State with a mechanism for refusing to allow existing clinics to renew their licenses to operate.
  • There is no right to appeal deficiencies to any unbiased body outside of the Department of Health and Hospitals. Therefore, every deficiency that a clinic is cited with will be allowed to stand, and those deficiencies are often later used to revoke a clinic’s license on the basis of being a “repeat” offender.
  • The new regulations require that all facilities have very specific square footage requirements that are far larger than any currently operating abortion facility. They would be prohibitively expensive to construct, and the requirements have no medical necessity. If the regulations are allowed to go into effect, no clinic will be in compliance on the day the regulations are implemented, and the State will have the ability to shut down every existing abortion clinic in the State.

These regulations were originally enacted without public comment and with no clear indication of need. There will finally be a hearing on Tuesday, February 4 at 1:00pm in Room 173 of the Bienville Building, 628 North 4th Street in Baton Rouge. The New Orleans Abortion Fund and members of allied organizations will be testifying and presenting written comments from advocates, providers, and women who have recently obtained abortions at affected clinics at the public hearing.

The people of Louisiana need your support! Please consider attending this hearing and/or submitting written comments. We have created talking points and a sample letter [PDFs]. Feel free to copy and paste (and re-format if needed!), but please consider adding your personal thoughts.

Hearing details:
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 9:30am - get there early; we are packing the place!
Bienville Building, Room 118, 628 North 4th Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
NOTE: NOAF and our allies are wearing purple!

If you cannot attend the hearing, we can print and hand-deliver your written comments at the hearing -- you MUST include your full name and address. Email your letter to abortionfundnola@gmail.com by Monday, February3 at 8:00pm CST



Thank you! Together, we can fight back!


4 comments:

  1. The formatting got extremely messed up when I copy/pasted the sample letter and the font is sort of huge too.

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    1. Thanks for the warning! We've had some formatting issues on the blog today too, but the sample letter is a PDF from the fund volunteers who contacted us -- I encourage everyone to double-check your fonts, select all and set it to Times 12-pt, or paste it into a simple text editor like Notepad that doesn't transfer as much formatting. Thank you for adding your voice by sending something!

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  2. Here's my letter!

    Dear DHH officials,

    The mission of the Department of Health and Hospitals is to protect Louisiana citizens as they receive healthcare. Please revoke the emergency regulations regarding abortion clinics. These regulations are overbearing and unnecessary, and it is frankly preposterous that they are being considered at all. If clinics are to adhere to the stipulations for room size, they will have to rebuild, risking their licenses and unnecessarily inflating the cost of procedures. I volunteer for an organization that helps women obtain funds to be able to afford their abortions. Speaking with dozens of women in a given week, it is clear that it is already difficult for too many women to find the money to get an abortion. Families are struggling as it is. Most of the women I talk to are unemployed or underemployed, living with a family member, and living paycheck to paycheck. Many already have children, and worry that they will not be able to support another child. Adding the burden of cost—or another child if an abortion becomes impossible—does not help anyone in this situation.

    I'd like to share some comments from one of our clients here, B. Jones:
    “I can barely make do for myself. Financially, I make ends meet, but what about diapers and wipes? I've done my part with my birth control. I don't qualify for those long-term birth controls [the IUD and the Implanon]. If I'm being shut down on my birth control, I'm forced to seek abortions. It's my way of not being on welfare, food stamps, [having] another child on WIC or Medicaid. The truth of the matter is it's my body and I thought it was a free country. And it's my choice.”

    Furthermore, I truly fear the consequences if Louisiana's abortion clinics are forced out of business. As always with these regulations, low-income families will be affected most, while those who can afford to do so will travel to seek out a safe abortion. Those who cannot will undoubtedly attempt to terminate their pregnancies some other way. I know because I have spoken with such individuals. Please do not turn back the clock on health and safety in this state. Too much is at stake for women and families when abortion rights are impossible to access.

    Another client says it best: “I could understand [these regulations] if there's a real threat to someone's health, but they're using medical standards to control someone's life. It's not really gonna help anybody out. They don't really know hat's going on in a situation. It would take a personal encounter to understand the weight of the decision.”

    Sincerely,

    l.v.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that's an excellent letter. Thanks so much for sharing it. The words of the clients are humbling, as they so often are...and ought to shame anyone who doesn't already realize how shameful this attack is.

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This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.