East Baton Rouge District Judge Don Johnson heard oral arguments on Monday in the lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s abortion ban before directing both sides to submit proposed findings and judgments.
Attorneys for the Shreveport abortion clinic Hope Medical Group for Women and abortion advocates with Medical Students for Choice argued Louisiana’s abortion laws are unconstitutionally vague. Attorney Joanna Wright told the court conflicting language in state statutes prevent doctors from understanding what services violate the law and the potential penalties.
Wright alleged the law puts doctors in a difficult position of determining whether patients qualify for exceptions for “medically futile” pregnancies and abortions to “prevent the death or substantial risk of death to the pregnant woman.”
Wright said an “ordinary citizen should be able to look” at the law to understand what’s permitted, The Associated Press reports.
Attorneys representing Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Courtney Phillips countered that the law clearly bans elective abortions, and doctors won’t be held criminally liable if they use “reasonable medical judgement.”
Lead defense attorney John Balhoff argued the law goes to “extraordinary lengths” to define medically necessary abortions, and it’s not required to define all the ways doctors could violate the statutes, according to The Advocate.
Balhoff said “the lives of unborn children are at risk again” if Johnson strikes down the law, which was crafted to take effect upon the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The nation’s highest court overturned that precedent, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in late June.
The plaintiffs immediately sued to prevent the laws from taking effect, and a New Orleans judge issued a temporary restraining order, which was later dissolved when the case moved to East Baton Rouge. Johnson reinstated the temporary restraining order last week, which prompted Hope Medical Group to resume operations as the case proceeds.
Wright argued the posts amounted to “intimidation,” while Balhoff argued “it doesn’t matter what the attorney general said in a tweet,” only the law, The Advocate reports.
Johnson left the restraining order in place on Monday and could rule in the case as early as Tuesday.
Landry defended his Twitter posts in a press conference outside of the courthouse Monday as protesting abortion advocates attempted to drown him out. Landry said he expects the case will eventually be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which previously denied his request to intervene.
“We believe that ultimately we will prevail and the rule of law will be upheld,” Landry said, according to the AP. “Those people who don’t like it have two choices — they can try to change the law, but if they find themselves in the minority of ideas then they can pack their bags and go somewhere else.”