Louisiana lawmakers reject measures aimed at clarifying medical exceptions to abortion ban
House Bill 598 would have explicitly stated abortion is legal when used to remove an ectopic or molar pregnancy, conditions that cannot result in a successful birth.
BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - A Louisiana House committee overwhelmingly rejected two pieces of legislation Tuesday seeking to clarify when an abortion is still legal due to medical complications, in spite of doctors repeatedly complaining over the past year that the current abortion ban is unclear on this matter.
Lawmakers in favor of the legislation believe the bills may have been rejected, in part, over a fear they could be amended to carve out additional exceptions to the abortion ban for pregnancies that result from rape and incest. The committee voted down other proposals to allow rape and incest exceptions last week.
House Bill 461, sponsored by Rep. Mary DuBuisson, R-Slidell, would have clarified that legal abortions could be provided when a person is already losing their pregnancy or the pregnancy is no longer viable.
“The bill will not enhance access to abortion. On the contrary, it will keep our pro-life position in Louisiana,” said DuBuisson, who opposes abortion.
Doctors and women have struggled to end wanted, but unsuccessful pregnancies in Louisiana over the past several months. Current law requires people to carry pregnancies until their own health is threatened, said Ellie Schilling, an attorney who represents abortion rights groups. This results in people having to stay pregnant for weeks or months even after doctors determine a pregnancy will ultimately fail, she said.
“There is nothing natural about leaving a doctor’s office or a hospital with a dead or dying baby inside of you,” DuBuisson said. “What [the bill] will do is prevent a woman from having to carry a dead fetus to term.”
Anti-abortion advocates pushed back on DuBuisson’s characterization of her bill, saying the legislation would legalize elective abortions in the first few months of pregnancy. Lawmakers should question the proposal, given that its backers include abortion rights supporters, they said.
Republicans on the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice ended up siding with the anti-abortion witnesses and voted down the legislation on an 8-5 vote.
House Bill 598, sponsored by Rep. Candance Newell, D-New Orleans, would have explicitly stated abortion is legal when used to remove an ectopic or molar pregnancy, conditions that cannot result in a successful birth.
Doctors testified Newell’s bill would have given physicians peace of mind and lifted some fear they could be prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy.
“Many, many women present with pregnancy complications to the emergency department first,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency room physician and director of the New Orleans Health Department. “I don’t know of any other condition that we treat as physicians where we have to worry about some sort of legal ambiguity.”
Republicans on the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice rejected that legislation on a 7-5 vote, calling it unnecessary. Molar and ectopic pregnancy complications were covered under the current exceptions to the abortion ban, they said.
“Everything you just talked about I think is covered in the law already,” Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, told doctors who came to testify in favor of the bill.
Newell and DuBuisson had tried to get their proposals moved to the House Health and Welfare Committee over the last week, where they thought they stood a better chance of passing, but the chairman of that committee, Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, rebuffed their efforts.
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