La. Officials Suspend Abortion Clinic's License

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana health officials suspended an abortion clinic's license Friday, the first time the state has used its new authority to shut down such a facility over health and safety concerns.

The Louisiana health department ordered the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport to immediately cease performing the procedures, saying an investigation found the clinic failed to ensure that a physician performed and documented a physical exam on each woman before a procedure. The clinic also failed to follow several procedures involving anesthesia, including not properly monitoring vital signs, the agency said.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a law in June giving the health department the authority to shut down clinics. Before the law took effect, the clinics could continue to operate while appealing a license suspension.

"When we see this level of egregious conduct at a facility, it is incumbent on us to take steps necessary to protect our residents," said the agency's Interim Secretary Anthony Keck. "The Legislature gave us this authority because they recognized we must have the ability to stop unsafe practices that place these already vulnerable women in danger."

The clinic's patient service manager, Kathleen Pittman, said she knew nothing about the license suspension.

"This is the first I'm hearing of it," she said. "We closed at 5 p.m. and had not received any such notice."

The health department said it faxed the notice to the clinic Friday afternoon.

Pittman said the facility normally operates Monday through Saturday. Besides abortion procedures, the clinic offers pregnancy testing and counseling, emergency contraception and adoption referrals.