A federal judge Wednesday set a trial for next month on the constitutionality of the nation's strictest anti-abortion law after both sides agreed the new law would not be enforced for at least two months.
The law, passed Tuesday in a historic override of Gov. Buddy Roemer's veto, bans most abortions and jails doctors who perform illegal ones.Within minutes after passage, the American Civil Liberties Union moved in federal court to block enforcement until the constitutionality could be determined.
But that move was made unnecessary Wednesday when Attorney General William Guste and abortion rights activists met in New Orleans with U.S. District Judge Adrian Duplantier, officials said.
All sides agreed that under state law the measure doesn't go into effect until 60 days after the end of the session, Guste said. The session is due to end late this month or early in July.
Duplantier set trial for July 23, Guste said.
"There was no need for a restraining order, since the law doesn't actually take effect at this time," Guste said.
Hard-liners in the Legislature said they would press to make the law even tougher Wednesday by suspending enforcement of sections that allow abortions in cases of rape or incest.
Both sides expect a long legal battle. Abortion opponents said the law is styled as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision recognizing the right to an abortion.
Louisiana is among several states that have toughened their abortion laws since a 1989 Supreme Court ruling gave states greater latitude to do so.
The new law carries up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for doctors who perform an illegal abortion.
It allows abortion to save the mother's life and in cases of rape and incest, but only in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Rape and incest victims must report the crime within a week and seek medical attention within five days.
Utah's law was previously considered the nation's strictest. It bans abortions except in cases of rape or incest, grave danger to the mother's health, or if the fetus has grave defects. Enforcement is suspended pending a lawsuit.