Governor Signs Off on New Restrictions to Reproductive Health Care Access

Reproductive health advocates expressed disappointment at the Governor’s support for laws that create barriers for women seeking abortion

New Orleans, LA (May 23, 2016) – Last Thursday, Governor Edwards quietly signed two new laws that restrict access to abortion. The Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom is concerned about the impact of these laws and several others making their way to the governor’s desk soon.

HB 386, now Act 97, triples the state’s mandated delay, forcing women seeking abortions to wait at least 72 hours between obtaining state-mandated counseling and the abortion. Health care providers and advocates say that forcing women to delay their abortions does absolutely nothing to protect their health and in fact can jeopardize their health. The longer wait imposed by this bill will result in delays in obtaining an abortion which can lead women to obtain procedures that can be more complicated, lengthy, and certainly more expensive.

“This law demeans women because it assumes that we are not able to make decisions that are in our best interest,” said Angela Adkins, NOW Baton Rouge president.  “Condescending legislation, like HB 386, and Rep. Havard’s ‘joke’ amendment this week just illuminate the misogyny and disrespect that women endure both inside and outside of the Capitol.”

This law is part of a larger assault on access to reproductive health care this session. HB 1081, by Representative Mike Johnson, would ban one of the most common second-trimester abortion procedures. When considered alongside Act 97, this is a dangerous proposal. Taken together, it isn’t hard to see the impact on women as one bill imposes a state mandated three day delay, denying women access to care earlier and pushing more women to have second-trimester procedures; the other then bans that procedure.

Major mainstream medical experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these measures, noting “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients. This is unacceptable.”    

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has upheld the procedure targeted by this bill as constitutional, raising questions from members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee about whether the law would face costly court challenges. That bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The governor also signed HB 488, which unnecessarily requires abortion providers to be board certified ob/gyns and makes it more difficult for capable and trained physicians who want to perform abortions to get licensed to do so in Louisiana.

On the same day as the governor signed these bills, he also signed a bill to make medical marijuana accessible. The governor has said of that bill, “I, quite frankly, think the state ought not be between the doctor and parents on what’s best for those children.” Reproductive health advocates were quick to point out that the governor does not seem to have a problem with the state coming between a doctor and women.

Next week, the Senate will vote on a proposal to prohibit health care providers, like Planned Parenthood, from receiving state funding even for family planning services. HB 606, by Representative Hoffman, would significantly reduce access to testing, treatment and birth control for individuals enrolled in Medicaid and Take Charge and would deny women access to affordable contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies at a time when Louisiana ranks among the highest in the nation for rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Two other proposals are likely to come up again in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. HB 1019 Representative Edmonds would ban abortions sought due to genetic abnormalities. Opponents say these bills gives politicians the power to make decisions for women and their families, without considering the circumstances.

Meanwhile, lawmakers struck down efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies and support families.  Lawmakers have voted downed or stalled bills to raise the minimum wage, provide for equal pay for women, and assess youth risk behavior in schools.

“If politicians truly wished to promote the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities, there are proactive steps they could be taking and services they could be providing instead of inserting ideology into the private lives of families, said Michelle Erenberg, Executive Director of Lift Louisiana. “Yet they are spending their time on these efforts that are likely to face constitutional challenges and cost our state money defending them in court.”

A similar law in Indiana is currently being challenged.

HB 815, by Representative Stokes changes the requirements for fetal disposition, which opponents say are unworkable and would impose an impossible demand on women who have medication abortions.

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