The Fair Fight Initiative is prepared to defend anyone and everyone prosecuted in what was referred to as “Louisiana’s war against women’s reproductive health.”
The group of lawyers from Louisiana firms held a nearly 16-minute press conference Tuesday morning on the district courthouse steps in Baton Rouge to announce free legal representation for anyone criminally charged with an abortion-related offense.
The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, which ended the constitutional right to an abortion upheld for nearly five decades.
“This is a fight that we must take on,” said attorney Ron Haley. “This is a fight that we must take on right now because women’s health is at the forefront. We believe that the United States Supreme Court decision is wildly unconstitutional and has effects that go far beyond the abortion issue.”
The court’s decision enacted Louisiana’s “trigger” laws, which mandate 10-15 years of prison to anyone who assists in an abortion or provides help in any way to an abortion-related situation.
“The moment Dobbs (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) came down, Louisiana law became a Theocracy,” said attorney Chris Murell. “We now punish women and don’t treat them as equal class citizens per felony criminal law.”
“This is disproportionately going to affect poor folks and people of color. People with means, can just fly to Illinois or New Mexico and access their right of choice. It’s the people who can’t do that that will be affected most.”
Attorney Ashley Greenhouse said women having safe healthcare options should be a focus.
“Lots of things weren’t considered in these decisions,” she said. “Women are just scared. They know that they need help. As I’m standing here today, I have less rights concerning my body than I had when I was born and I think that’s a problem. This is my body and it’s my right to choose what I do with it.”
On Monday, New Orleans Judge Robin Giarrusso placed a temporary restraining order on enforcing the abortion ban until a scheduled hearing on July 8 at 10 a.m.
“I think there’s been a misconception with messaging,” Haley said. “The idea is that we have these anti-abortion laws because these women are acting irresponsibly and don’t want to take responsibility for being pregnant. That is so far from the truth. The issues as it attains to abortion are so much bigger than that. The government should not be able to tell a woman what to do with her body. A man should not be able to tell a woman what to do with her body and the court shouldn’t either.”
Murell said they received a call from a patient who nearly died because her doctor was unsure if he could perform her medically necessary abortion, which is legal.
“She had an atopic pregnancy. The only way to medically treat an atopic pregnancy is abortion,” he said. “That’s not illegalized by our statute. If you have an atopic pregnancy, you can still have an abortion but as she was bleeding liters of blood, her doctor had to meet with the hospital’s doctor for over a half an hour where she nearly died to clear if it was okay for him to perform this medically necessary abortion. Women are going to die and this is happening right now in our state.”
Baton Rouge NAACP President Eugene Collins said he supports the initiative and that the court’s decision isn’t going to stop abortions based on history.
“Women have always had abortions,” he said. “We know for a fact that before abortions were legal, women would go in street alleys with coat hangers and illegal drugs and still get that abortion. I think that something like this has a very dangerous element to it. This is no doubt going to have a bigger impact on those that are oppressed or those who are economically disadvantaged. People will find a way, an unhealthy way. A lot of women will die in this process because if they want to have an abortion and they’re hell-bent on it, that’s what’s going to happen. This court should not decide what’s best for somebody. That’s an individual decision.”