by Steven Ertelt
May 18, 2006
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — A Louisiana state House committee on Wednesday approved a state ban on virtually all abortions after making minor changes to the life of the mother exception. The House Criminal Justice Committee signed off on the bill and sent it to the full House for a debate and vote.
During the committee debate, Rep. Charlie DeWitt, a Democrat, had wanted to include a wide-ranging health exception in the bill but Sen. Ben Nevers, the Democrat who is the main sponsor of the abortion ban objected.
Nevers said a general health exception would undermine the intent of the bill but allowing virtually all abortions.
“What that would amount to is abortion on demand,” Nevers said, according to a Baton Rouge Advocate news report.
Instead, the committee added a scaled back amendment clarifying the life of the mother exception.
Dorinda Bordlee, a longtime pro-life Louisiana attorney and vice president of the Bioethics Defense Fund, told LifeNews.com the exception the committee added doesn’t gut the abortion ban.
"The amendment does not weaken the bill," she told LifeNews.com.
"It simply clarifies the life of the mother exception by stating that the mother must be experiencing the failure of an organ or major bodily function," Bordlee explained. "Even in that instance, the bill requires that the physician must use the procedure that gives the child the best chance of live birth."
After three hours of debate on the measure, the committee adopted it on a voice vote and sent it to the full House for consideration. Should the House sign off on the bill, the Senate would need to approve the changes before it could go to the governor.
The committee also adopted legislation that would make sure the state does not lose millions in Medicaid funds by prohibiting abortions in cases of rape and incest.
During the testimony on the bill, women who had been victimized by abortion told their stories of how they regretted their decision to have an abortion.
Julie Mickleberry, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta, said her group opposes the bill.
"It is a question of fundamental rights to privacy," she said. Though Planned Parenthood came under fire for exploiting the Hurricane Katrina tragedy to raise funds, Mickleberry said now is "not an appropriate time" for the legislature to be debating abortion.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco has not yet commented on the bill.
Denise Bottcher, a representative of the governor, told the New Orleans newspaper that Blanco opposes abortion "except in extreme cases, to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. She will be watching this bill closely."
The Senate rejected an effort to add rape and incest exceptions to the bill and the House committee turned back a request to add them as well.
Nevers said he opposed adding any exceptions to the measure, saying his heart goes out to victims of rape but an abortion compounds the problem.
"Lord knows I would never want to hurt a mother, in any way. Lord knows I would never want to hurt a victim of rape or incest," he said. "A crime committed by a rapist should not result in the death of an unborn child."
He indicated Louisiana state figures show only one abortion of the 11,000 done annually because the woman was raped.
An amendment to add the exceptions failed on a 20-17 vote in the Senate and then Senate lawmakers approved the abortion ban 31-6.
"After 33 years of abortion on demand, this vote reflects the growing understanding that abortion is violence against women, and that a rape exception would allow the rapist to victimize the woman twice in addition to ending an innocent life," Bordlee said afterwards.
The legislation, which follows an abortion ban South Dakota lawmakers approved, would fine anyone who performs an abortion from $10,000 to $100,000. Abortion practitioners would be jailed from one to 10 years.
The Louisiana abortion ban would go into effect only if the Roe v. Wade decision is overturned.
Lawmakers approved an abortion ban in 1991 that did have rape and incest exceptions in it and was eventually vetoed by then Gov. Buddy Roemer. Federal courts declared it unconstitutional in 1992.
Related web sites:
Louisiana state legislature – https://legis.state.la.us