Louisiana Senate Decides to Triple the Waiting Period for Abortion


 Louisiana Senate Decides to Triple the Waiting Period for Abortion

Reproductive health advocates express disappointment with the vote

New Orleans, LA (May 3, 2016) – The Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom expressed serious disappointment that the Louisiana Senate voted today 34-4 to impose an unnecessary, burdensome obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions.

HB 386, by Representative Hoffman, will triple the state’s existing waiting period, 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.

HB 386 passed the Senate despite research that warns of its  negative implications. Newly published research on the impact of a similar law in Utah, which found that the waiting period had little impact on a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but rather restricted access to the procedure by imposing financial and logistical burdens on accessing abortion care.  For some women these challenges meant that they had to disclose their abortion to people that they otherwise would not have, such as bosses and coworkers.

In practical terms, a 72 hour waiting period can amount to a much longer wait, depending on the days of the week a clinic sees patients.  HB 386 will force a woman who would otherwise choose a medication abortion to have a surgical abortion, and a woman who would terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester.  

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare heard HB 386.  Angela Adkins of the Louisiana National Organization for Women spoke out against the bill by reading names of women who died from self-induced or unsafe illegal abortions. “During times when abortion was illegal, it was also unsafe,” she said, adding, “Where abortions are legal, deaths drop.”

The New Orleans Abortion Fund’s Amy Irvin stated, “Laws restricting access to comprehensive health care, including abortion, harm all people.” Calling the bill “condescending,” Irvin said, “We trust (women) to know the best option for their future and their family’s well-being … Placing additional barriers on health care is unnecessary and cruel.”

Louisiana does not impose similar delay periods for other procedures, including complicated ones.  HB 386 singles out abortion care. Opponents of the bill agreed with the sentiments of State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb (D), who, in opposition to the bill, said, “I have a problem with government telling a woman what to do with her body, period.”

The impact of HB 386 will fall hardest on women with the least access and the least resources. 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. The delay will also increase the cost of an abortion if a woman has to take off from work, arrange child care or stay overnight when the distance to the clinic is too great.

Ellie Schilling, a local attorney, testified last week that these proposals “are likely to be subject to constitutional challenges.” These inevitable legal challenges set the State up for expensive legislation at a time when its budget is cash-strapped.

HB 386 is part of an ongoing effort to restrict abortion services.  Other bills introduced this year would prohibit health care providers, like Planned Parenthood, from receiving state funding even for family planning services, despite a warning against such legislation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Another bill bans the most common abortion method in the second trimester, placing politicians squarely between doctors and their patients.  In this context, extending the mandatory delay may result in more women needing access to the procedure this bill proposes to ban.

“When considered together, it is difficult to deny that lawmakers are strategically working to ensure that women in Louisiana will have no access to their constitutional right to have an abortion,” explained Michelle Erenberg, Executive Director of Lift Louisiana.

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