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Abortion controversies

DHH backs down on regs; local archdiocese steps up

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  The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals (DHH) abruptly rescinded an "emergency" set of licensing regulations for state abortion providers less than 24 hours before a public hearing was set to discuss them in Baton Rouge. The emergency orders, which were issued last November, included a mandatory blood test 30 days before an abortion was performed.

  Critics of the policy change said the proposed blood test had no medical validity and was instead an attempt to further narrow the window during which a Louisiana resident could get an abortion. (The law currently makes it illegal in most cases for an abortion to be performed after the 20th week of gestation.)

  Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, one of the groups in support of the now-rescinded regulations, blamed the scrapping of the law on "aggressive abortion profiteers who support the deregulation of the abortion industry in Louisiana." DHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins said the agency would go back to the drawing board on crafting new regulations.

  Meanwhile, in an open letter published Feb. 1, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to participate in any activity that would further the construction of Planned Parenthood's new facility, currently being built on South Claiborne Avenue and scheduled to open next year. (Planned Parenthood's current clinic, on Magazine Street, does not provide abortions; the new clinic will become the sixth facility in Louisiana to offer them.)

  "The archdiocese is obliged to remind every person and organization involved in the acquisition, preparation and construction of this or any abortion facility that they are cooperating with the evil that will take place there," Aymond wrote. "For this reason, the archdiocese, including its churches, schools, apartments for the elderly and nursing homes, will strive in its privately funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality."

  In a statement, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla said, "Planned Parenthood will continue to do everything possible to ensure that women and men in Louisiana have access to the full range of reproductive health care they need." — KEVIN ALLMAN

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