Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Phillips, No. 18-30699 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Two Planned Parenthood entities and three Jane Does filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the Louisiana Department of Health is unlawfully declining to act on Planned Parenthood's application for a license to provide abortion services in Louisiana. The district court denied the Department's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).
The Fifth Circuit held that it has jurisdiction over the Department's interlocutory appeal because the Department asserted sovereign immunity in the district court. The court held that plaintiffs' second requested injunction—directing the Department to "promptly rule" on their application "in accordance with all applicable constitutional requirements"—is not barred by Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 106 (1984), because plaintiffs allege a potential violation of their procedural-due-process rights pursuant to Ex parte Young and because requiring the Department to make a decision on the application and comply with the federal Constitution does not infringe the state's sovereign immunity.
The court also held that the first and third of plaintiffs' requested injunctions—directing the Department to "not withhold approval" of their application or "grant" them a license—are barred by Pennhurst because there is no free-standing federal right to receive an abortion-clinic license. The court declined to exercise its pendant jurisdiction to consider other issues raised by the Department. Accordingly, the court denied the motion to dismiss, affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.