SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A representatives of a Shreveport abortion clinic confirms they are still seeing patients and providing services while complying with guidance from the Louisiana Department of Health and CDC recommendations amid emergency orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That confirmation comes after Attorney General Jeff Landry issued a statement early Saturday evening citing “reports” that the clinic is ignoring an order issued by the Louisiana Department of Health last Saturday suspending all elective medical procedures and surgeries in the state due to the coronavirus.
“While healthcare workers actually treating Coronavirus patients are experiencing severe shortages of Personal Protective Equipment, June Medical is irresponsibly still operating business – dangerously putting countless people at further risk,” Landry said in the statement. “Not only should June Medical and all of Louisiana’s abortion providers comply with the public safety order, but they should also follow the generous lead of other medical facilities and donate their supplies to local hospitals who are in desperate need.”
Landry’s office later clarified to KTAL/KMSS that in addition to several reports and photos confirming traffic in recent days, attorneys for the clinic “sent a letter this week to LDH clearly indicating their intent to defy the order and not delay procedures.”
In his statement, Landry called on the interim LDH Secretary Stephen Russo to enforce the order and shut the Shreveport clinic down.
“Just this week, the Governor warned that ‘we’re seeing a troubling sign in northwestern Louisiana.’ June Medical is once again putting their profits over the health and safety of the public. I hope the Governor’s Secretary of Health will recognize that elective abortions are not essential procedures and enforce the LDH order fully.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy organization representing the clinic, says the services Hope Medical Group provides are essential.
Abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care that must remain available during this pandemic–particularly because every pregnancy is unique and may pose significant health risks. Hope Medical Group is seeing patients and complying with all LDH guidance and CDC recommendations.Kelly Krause, Center for Reproductive Rights
Landry’s statement says the LDH notice applies equally statewide to all licensed medical facilities and medical professionals under LDH authority, “and that it orders the immediate postponement of all elective medical procedures and surgeries that are not necessary to treat an emergency medical condition or immediately necessary to prevent further harm to a patient.”
Landry also notes that the order follows guidance from the U.S. Center for Disease Control regarding elective surgeries at this time, and it is similar to orders by state health departments across the country.
However, the order does include exceptions for medical procedures in order to treat “an emergency medical condition…such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in: (a) Placing the Health of the individual or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy…”
The Hope Medical Group for Women is one of three in the state that provides abortions to women, and it is challenging a state law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Russo and former Secretary of the State Department of Health and Hospitals Dr. Rebekah Gee are named as defendants in the suit. The Supreme Court heard the case on March 4. Opinions are typically handed down during the months of May and June. It’s not clear yet whether an opinion in the case can still be expected during that time frame due to the coronavirus pandemic.
KTAL/KMSS has reached out to the Louisiana Department of Health for comment on the Attorney General’s statement and whether the Hope Medical Group is under investigation for violation of the March 21 order.