Louisiana judge blocks state’s trigger law banning abortions

Louisiana is one of the states with a trigger law where the ban on performing abortions went into effect on Friday. A state judge on Monday granted a request from the Hope Medical group for women in Shreveport, one of the state’s three abortion providers, to block the law for now. Kathaleen Pittman, Hope Medical Group’s clinical administrator, joins John Yang to discuss.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    As mentioned, the fallout from the Supreme Court's decision has been swift across the states.

    John Yang takes a deeper look at how one abortion provider is responding.

  • John Yang:

    Nick, Louisiana is one of the states with a trigger law, where the ban on performing abortions took effect immediately.

    But, earlier today, a state judge granted a request from the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, one of only three abortion providers in the entire state, to block the trigger law for now.

    Kathaleen Pittman is administrator for the medical group.

    Thanks for joining us.

    Now that the judge has acted, given — issued a temporary restraining order, what's called a TRO, what does this allow the clinic to do now?

    Kathaleen Pittman, Clinic Administrator, Hope Medical Group for Women: For now, that does allow us to resume providing abortion care.

    We are busy calling patients and bringing them in starting effective tomorrow.

  • John Yang:

    And this would last until the court appearance, which is scheduled for July 8. Is that correct?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    Right.

    At that point in time, it could be extended or it could be all over at that point in time. We just don't know.

  • John Yang:

    Take me back to Friday, when the court rule. What were you doing? How did you get the word? What was going on at the clinic at the time?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    I was actually glued to my computer while I was monitoring SCOTUSblog, texting back and forth with Jenny Ma with the Center for Reproductive Rights — they have been representing us for many years now — when the word came through.

    Had to pause at that point in time and alert the staff. We had a building full of patients. So we had to let the patients know what was going on. We were busy with consults that morning. We agreed to proceed with the consults, at the very least so these women could have an ultrasound.

    Some of the women had been waiting weeks to get in for these appointments. So we didn't want them to leave without at the very least an ultrasound. We had procedures scheduled for later during the day. We canceled those. And then Saturday was a busy clinic day for us, or was supposed to be.

    So we had to cancel all those appointments.

  • John Yang:

    What was that like to tell the your patients that appointments that had been scheduled, procedures that had been scheduled just couldn't go ahead?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    There were tears. There was anger, the gamut of emotions you can imagine from staff and from the patients in the waiting rooms, probably more anger than anything.

    This is something that has been their right. And we literally were having the conversation that their grandmothers and, in some cases, great-grandmothers had more rights than they did as of that day. So it was difficult. There was sobbing involved.

    It's not something I would wish on anybody.

  • John Yang:

    And for a patient who had a procedure scheduled for Friday afternoon or for later Friday morning, to have to tell them that it wasn't going to happen, can you recall some of the reaction? Or tell us, is there anyone who stands out in your memory and what happened when you had to tell them that?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    Some of them were already on the road on their way here because they're driving several hours away.

    But what I'm told by my staff is that there was some crying involved and patients asking, what are they supposed to do? These are women that were already further into their pregnancies. We had set aside a different afternoon for procedures where we normally don't see cases, just so they would be able to get in to us.

    Because of the influx of patients coming from Texas since last fall, we have been constantly trying to play catchup with our appointments. So, ultimately, we are seeing women that are further into their pregnancies. Normally, women come to us very early in the pregnancy for a pregnancy termination.

    But since S.B.8 Texas kicked in last fall, we have seen more women further into the first trimester and early second trimester. We have seen very few early terminations.

  • John Yang:

    And you talk about the women who have to come from Texas now because of what's going on in that state.

    If this temporary restraining order had not been issued this morning, what would your patients have had to do in Louisiana.

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    They would have to travel further afield. And make no — just understand, a lot of women would be completely denied care simply because they don't have the means to travel up further out of state.

    At this point in time, we would be having to refer to Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico. And a lot of women can't go that far. They don't have the means. They don't have the transportation, child care, time off work. Most of the women we see here already have one or more children. They have families that they have to take care of.

    Most of the women we see are coming to us because they can't afford to expand their families at this time. So, it would create just even more of a burden for them. Some of them would end up having to continue a pregnancy that they cannot care for.

  • John Yang:

    Tell us about the women that you see at that clinic. What's your — what are your patients like, a typical patient?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    The majority of the women that come to us are persons of color. The majority live at or below the federal poverty level. The majority already have one or more children.

    We see women who are already working one, two, three jobs just to make ends meet. Time after time, the reason given for pregnancy termination is financial instability. So, denying them abortion care does nothing but force them to sink further into poverty.

    And we all know that states that have really restrictive abortion laws or no abortion clinics are the states that have the worst maternal mortality rate, the worst incidence of adverse events during pregnancy, poverty, food instability. So, it absolutely makes no sense.

  • John Yang:

    And how do you feel now that the judge has issued this temporary restraining order?

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    Well, we allowed ourselves a few moments of relief, a big sigh. And then we got to work calling patients, because we know that we are limited time-wise.

    We don't know what's going to happen on the — July 8. We don't know if our reprieve will be extended any further. So, until then, we — all we can do is concentrate on our patients that are coming to us in the here and now.

  • John Yang:

    Kathaleen Pittman, administrator for the hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, thank you very much.

  • Kathaleen Pittman:

    Thank you for having me.

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