Plan to Ban Abortions Clears House Committee

Changes to the law do little to address underlying legal and health concerns

On Wednesday, the the members of the Criminal Justice Committee in the Louisiana House narrowly approved an amended proposal by Senator John Milkovich that would ban abortion after 15 weeks. The vote was 9-8.

The new proposal’s effective date depends on the outcome of a lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s unconstitutional ban on abortion after 15 weeks signed by Governor Bryant. That law is currently being blocked by a federal court. Courts have consistently struck down bans on abortion before viability as unconstitutional.

Ellie Schilling an attorney that represents reproductive health clinics in the state provided testimony. She stated “A pre-viability ban has never been upheld by any federal court, any district court or appellate court.” She went on to tell the committee that the amendment does not insulate the Louisiana law from being challenged because it is “more severe and more unconstitutional law than Mississippi’s law.” Unlike the law in Mississippi, Louisiana’s proposal imposes harsh criminal penalties for doctors and does not have an exception for severe fetal anomalies. 

A resident and a medical student studying in Louisiana to become OB/GYNs both testified today that fifteen weeks is too early to diagnose many fetal anomalies. “This law would require a woman to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth to a fetus with little to no chance of survival.” 

When asked by Representative Carpenter how a woman may feel that is forced to carry a pregnancy to term when the fetus has no chance of survival, Senator Milkovich answered that he thinks that would be a hardship, but that there is emotional strain on women who have abortions. In fact, studies consistently show that the overwhelming majority of women do not have negative emotions or regret about their decision. Studies do find that higher perceived community abortion stigma and lower social support were associated with more negative emotions. Representative Carter went on to say she was concerned that this bill could drive abortions underground and be less safe. 

Representative Duplessis agreed saying, “It’s apparent to me that more laws won’t stop it, it’s just going to make it less safe.” Senator Milkovich ignored this concern. “I don’t think law is going to make it less safe for unborn babies.” This illustrates how little regard he and the anti-abortion activists pushing this bill have for women’s health and lives. 

Duplessis also humbly pointed out to Milkovich and the committee that those testifying in favor of this bill were all men, while those opposed to the ban were women. “People are advocating so strongly on an issue, where you can never be in the position or stand in the shoes or ever have the experience of a woman.”

Last week Senators in the Health and Welfare committee pointed out that the state focuses on abortion restrictions but not enough on supporting the lives of women and children born in Louisiana. 

Women’s health advocates urge state lawmakers to advance measures that reduce the difficulties that women currently face in accessing reproductive health services, including comprehensive sex education, affordable contraception, and safe, legal abortion care early in pregnancy.

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