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Louisiana governor signs into law new abortion restrictions

By Jonathan Kaminsky

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed new restrictions on abortion clinics into law on Thursday, a move his critics have said will force three of the state's five clinics to close.

The measure, one of two abortion-related bills signed by the Republican governor, requires physicians who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the place where the abortion is performed. Abortion rights advocates say some providers will not be able to meet that standard.

“These new laws will give women the health and safety protections they deserve, and continue to make Louisiana a state that values individual human life,” Jindal said in a statement.

Supporters in Louisiana and other states that have adopted similar restrictions say they are aimed at protecting women's health.

Oklahoma's governor signed such a measure last month. Similar laws have taken effect in five states: Kansas, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Texas, where about a third of abortion clinics have closed since that state's law took effect late last year after legal battles. Laws have been blocked in Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin pending the outcome of court challenges.

Abortion rights groups say the provision is unnecessary because abortion complications are rare and tend to be similar to those of a miscarriage, which often are treated by emergency room physicians.

“We all want women to be safe, but this law doesn’t protect women’s health,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project.

Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, has predicted that at least three of the state's clinics could close because of the law. The Hope Medical Group for Women, an abortion clinic in the northwestern Louisiana city of Shreveport that expects to stay open despite the new restrictions, has already seen an influx of patients from Texas, said its director, Kathaleen Pittman.

"We're going to accommodate as many patients as we can," Pittman said.

The other bill signed by Jindal on Thursday will bar abortion providers from giving health instruction or materials in public schools or in charter schools that receive state funding. 

(Additional reporting by Lisa McDermott in Texarkana, Arkansas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)

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