Add Louisiana to the list of states seeking to allow pregnant women considering an abortion a chance to see an ultrasound and hear a heartbeat of their unborn child beforehand.
Late Tuesday afternoon, SB 708, the Hear the Heartbeat Act, authored by Senator Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge), passed the Senate floor by a 34-4 margin. SB 708, supported by Louisiana Right to Life and drafted by the Bioethics Defense Fund, would require abortion facilities to make the unborn child’s heartbeat audible to the woman prior to an abortion (unless the woman requests and signs a separate “opt-out” form).
The bill also would require abortion facilities to place the ultrasound screen in view of the woman (she has the choice to look or not) instead of having the screen turned away from the woman and the abortion employee “offering” the woman the chance to see the display (current law). The measure would also require abortion facilities to perform the ultrasound 24 hours prior to an abortion instead of two hours prior (current law).
Shortly before final passage, an unfriendly amendment offered by Senator Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) that would have weakened the bill was defeated by a 30-7 measure. Voting in favor of the weakening amendment were Senators Allain (R-Franklin), Claitor, Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Heitmeier (D-New Orleans), Morrell (D-New Orleans), Murray (D-New Orleans), and Peterson (D-New Orleans).
“The Claitor amendment would have left the ultrasound provision as it stands in law now, which faces the screen away from the woman and requires the abortion facility employee to offer the woman the opportunity to see the ultrasound screen,” explained Louisiana Right to Life director Ben Clapper. “To fix this, SB 708 positions the screen in view of the woman, giving her the choice to look or not. If SB 708 passes into law, the power would rest with the woman, not representatives of a business selling abortion. Our goal is to ensure that the woman is as informed as possible before making the decision to have an abortion.”
Dorinda Bordlee, of the Bioethics Defense Fund, said the original 2010 ultrasound law the legislature approved has already saved lives.
“The BDF-drafted ultrasound law passed in 2010 required abortion providers to inform the woman that she had the right to ask for an ultrasound photograph of her unborn child,” she said. “Thanks to passage of that law, a woman recently walked into a pro-life pregnancy resource center carrying the printout that she had received at the abortion clinic which had helped her choose life and love for herself and her unborn child. Together, we really do make a difference in hearts changed, and lives saved.”
Meanwhile, SB 330, the Criminal Abortion Dismemberment Act authored by Senator Rick Ward (D-New Roads), sailed through the Senate Judiciary C committee. Clapper is excited about the progress of both pro-life measures.
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“This BDF-drafted bill is a specific criminal statute that can be used to prosecute any person who performs an abortion without being licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana. Abortions that result in the intentional dismemberment of the unborn child (including the common methods of suction curettage and D&C) subject the abortionist to increased penalties,” Bordlee explained.
“While current civil law limits the performance of abortions to Louisiana licensed physicians, this criminal law would provide a District Attorney with an express statute to prosecute abortions illegally performed by nurses, physicians assistants, unlicensed or out of state physicians, or lay people (as in the Gosnell case),” she said.
Violators would face a penalty of one to five years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 to $50,000, or a combination of both, under the measure Senator Rick Ward sponsored.
“It was a successful day at the legislature, but all of our life-affirming bills have plenty of work ahead of them,” Clapper said. “Please reach out and thank the Senators who stood for life and contact those who voted in favor of the Claitor amendment and against the bill as a whole.”