Louisiana could see an influx of women seeking abortions after a Tuesday court ruling set into motion the shutdown of more than half of Texas' abortion clinics. But some worry Louisiana, with only five facilities and its own restrictive policies on women's healthcare, won't be able to support them.
"It has become very difficult for women in Louisiana to get abortions if they need them," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Louisiana branch in New Orleans. "To the extent that women from Texas are coming to Louisiana, it's not going to be a lot easier here."
About 9,900 people had abortions in Louisiana in 2014. As the laws in neighboring states have gotten stricter, Louisiana became one of two states where abortions increased in recent years, the Associated Press reported this week. Michigan, where women fleeing strict laws in Ohio often visit for abortions, was the other state. Both Michigan and Ohio have laws requiring women to attend a counseling session where they get information discouraging them from having the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center based in New York City.
Last year, 225 more Texas residents had abortions in Louisiana than did in 2013, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. With 886 residents having procedures, Texans comprised about 9 percent of the overall abortions in Louisiana in 2014.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' Tuesday decision to uphold parts of Texas' HB 2 could send more abortion traffic into Louisiana. The federal court ruled that abortion facilities must meet the standards for "ambulatory surgical centers" and that their doctors must have the power to admit patients to local hospitals.
HB 2 was expected to shut down 10 of the state's 17 abortion clinics, the Dallas Morning News reported, leaving some women hundreds of miles from the nearest in-state facility. Esman said this was unacceptable, adding that she felt Texas was trying to "foist off their responsibility on another state."
Louisiana -- recently named the most pro-life state in the nation -- has abortion controversy of its own. State lawmakers there are using the same legal tactics as Texas to try to limit access to abortion, said David Brown, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit legal organization based in New York City. He said a trial is set for later this month for portions of a lawsuit against HB 388, which would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics.
"If that law is upheld in a few weeks, the problems we're seeing in Texas we'll probably see in Louisiana -- magnified," Brown said. "It doesn't seem like they can absorb limitless loads from Texas."
Louisiana laws also prevent many abortion providers from obtaining medical malpractice insurance, he added, making it essentially impossible for the state to expand its abortion resources. It's not as simple as building more clinics or hiring more doctors to deal with the upcoming wave of women.
Texas patients themselves were likely to run into roadblocks, as well. Louisiana has a law that requires women to attend an in-person counseling appointment at least 24 hours before the procedure. This forces nonresidents to stay overnight, said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, a group of abortion providers in Washington.
Scheduling is even more complicated. Many doctors have private practices on the side and may not be available for an increased number of appointments. After the Texas ruling, they may have to prioritize patients later in their pregnancies, making some residents and visitors alike wait for care, Saporta said.
Esman, from the Louisiana ACLU, said she feared the shortage of options and resources could prompt some people to seek out illegal or unsafe abortion methods. "If a woman shows up and she needs services, there will be a way -- I hope -- to provide them," she said. "But it's not going to be easy."