Inside Louisiana’s Fierce Effort to Uphold Their Pro-life Laws
The calls started coming in from across southern Louisiana on Monday. Offices in Shreveport, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge were all-hands on deck, divvying up patient lists to try to reach everyone in time. One by one, they called dozens of women, explaining that their abortion procedures couldn’t go forward as planned. “The court reinstated the law,” they explained for the third time since Roe v. Wade was struck down. As many as 120 women across the state were scheduled to end their pregnancies this week — all lives that were saved, at least for now, by order of the First Circuit Court.
For state Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), the legal ping-pong has been infuriating. “Our laws are clear, and we will prevail in defending them,” he insisted, as one injunction after another stopped Louisiana’s pro-life protections from taking effect. At one point, Landry fired off a warning shot, reminding abortion groups that “Louisiana’s laws banning abortion have not been enjoined. Subject to certain exceptions, abortion remains a criminal offense in our state. Anyone performing abortions, pending outcome, will be culpable when the case is closed in favor of the laws in our state.”
At least 249 abortions have been carried out anyway, victims of the seven-week court battle that still isn’t settled. Like so many locals, Louisiana Right to Life’s Sarah Zagorski is horrified that the judicial uncertainty has created so many casualties. “Every day our laws are blocked, unborn babies in Louisiana die in abortions.”
Since Monday, Landry and the Louisiana Department of Health have focused on one thing: enforcing the state’s law. In a volley of cease and desist letters, health officials ordered the state’s three remaining abortion businesses — Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge, Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, and Women’s Health Care Center of New Orleans — to stand down. “Please be advised … as of August 1, 2022 … all outpatient abortion facilities [must] be closed … The Human Life Protection Act has been enacted, and the practice of abortion in Louisiana has been prohibited by law.”
For pro-lifers in the state, those are words they’ve been fighting to hear for two and a half decades. Back in the late 1990s, a young lawyer by the name of Mike Johnson could only dream of the day Roe v. Wade would be overturned. If it happened, he told reporter Barry Yeoman, “That would be the greatest day of my life.”
Johnson had just taken the case of a woman who almost died inside the Delta Clinic, a disgusting, filthy place that people would later compare to Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors. “It started out,” he remembers, “as an injury case.” At that time, Johnson explained, Delta “had a huge volume of abortions, and they were pretty notorious for having substandard practices.”
The equipment was so dirty, employee Markethia Clark testified at the time, that the “dilators had dried crusted blood down in the crevices of the numbers engraved on the side… The surgical tools were so rusted that if you rubbed your hand down it, it would leave a rusty, orange streak on your palm. Those were the same tools used on Denise [Johnson’s client] and all the other girls at the clinic.” There was “dried up blood on the floor, in the old recliners in the recovery room,” and sterilization solution “was hardly ever changed out.”
The future congressmen made it his personal mission to force abortionists to operate under the same standard of care as every other surgery center. He teamed up with then-state legislator Tony Perkins, who showed an undercover video on the assembly floor of the atrocities taking place behind “clinic” doors — the stomach-churning, third-world conditions that put women’s lives at risk. The shocking footage led to the overwhelming approval of some of the first clinic regulations in the country.
But the abortion industry found a way around the laws, cutting corners and endangering more mothers with shoddy care. The Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in June Medical only made things worse, ending common-sense safety standards across the state. “They simply didn’t want to be regulated,” Johnson told Perkins in a look back at the work they did to expose the abortion industry. “This is a cash cow operation. They had no oversight whatsoever…”
Perkins, who left state politics in 2003 to become president of Family Research Council, agreed. “They have a long history of putting profits above people,” he told The Washington Stand. “They’ve never cared about women.” It’s a sad truth that was reiterated as recently as 2019 when a young mom — barely 15 weeks pregnant — walked through those same Baton Rouge doors and had her abortion botched so badly that she had to have a complete hysterectomy, sterilizing her for life.
Today, that Delta Clinic, along with every abortion business in Louisiana, is finally closed. Their years of hurting women and taking the lives of innocent children are over, thanks to the greatest day of Johnson’s life — and every pro-lifer's. And while the abortion industry has proven it will do anything to stop Dobbs from chipping away at their foothold in the states, leaders like Landry will be standing guard — ready to defend the ground generations of work and prayer have won.
“The abortion movement will never stop pursuing profit,” Perkins insisted. “So we will never stop protecting people.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.