One of two abortion clinics in New Orleans area shuts down abruptly; unclear if it will reopen

One of the two abortion clinics that operate in the New Orleans area has abruptly shut down, a surprise — and so far unexplained — development, given that Louisiana’s clinics have so far managed to stave off a new state law that might force them to close.

The Causeway Medical Clinic on Ridgelake Drive in Metairie was all but empty Wednesday, save for three workers helping to clean out the building.

Those employees declined to speak about the closure, and the clinic’s owner, Choice Inc. of Texas, could not be reached for comment. Calls to the Metairie facility were being routed to the company’s Bossier City abortion clinic, Bossier City Medical Suite.

It’s not clear if or where the facility will reopen, leaving the Women’s Health Care Center on General Pershing Street in Orleans Parish as the only abortion clinic operating in the area.

The closure comes as a court fight continues over whether the state can enforce a law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The measure was passed in 2014 by lawmakers who argued that it would help protect women from unqualified doctors. States throughout the South have passed similar laws, with proponents sometimes acknowledging explicitly that the aim was to shut clinics down.

Causeway, Bossier City and Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport sued the state shortly after the law’s passage, arguing that the new requirements would force them to shut their doors without doing anything to actually safeguard the health of patients.

Abortion advocates at the time said three or perhaps four of the state’s five clinics would have to close.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles sided with clinics in a preliminary ruling in January and said Tuesday that Louisiana cannot enforce the law while the state’s appeal plays out.

In response, the state asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency order overruling him. The clinics have until Friday to respond.

The Causeway clinic had been taking patients since 1978, and like clinics around the country it’s been the subject of consistent protests from anti-abortion activists.

It’s not the first time the clinic has shut down — in 1999, what was then called the Abortion Assistance Causeway Medical Suite closed for four days before reopening at the same location.

The building on Wednesday had been cleared of medical equipment and supplies, suggesting no plans for a quick reopening, at least not in the same location.

The leader of one of the state’s most prominent anti-abortion groups, the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, hailed the closure in a statement to the group’s supporters.

“Over the years, the Causeway Medical Clinic facility has performed thousands and thousands of abortions, killing unborn children and damaging the lives of women and families,” Benjamin Clapper said. “With alternatives to abortion readily available, we don’t need abortion facilities profiting off the destruction of human life.”

Winter Claire Randall, of UniteWomen Louisiana, an advocacy group that opposes the state law Causeway is fighting, cast the move as a loss for local women who would otherwise have access to services.

Whatever the reason for the closure, “it’s a blow to women in this state,” she said.

Statewide, 10,211 abortions were performed in 2014, the last year for which state information has been publicized. Of that number, 1,866 were performed in Jefferson Parish, according to Clapper’s office, which requests parish-level data from the state.

Causeway is the only legal abortion clinic in the parish, though hospitals may perform abortions when the mother’s life is at risk.

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