The Times-PicayuneAbortion restrictions pass 85-6 out of Louisiana House
By Julia O'Donoghue, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on March 31, 2014 at 4:05 PM, updated March 31, 2014 at 8:06 PM
The Louisiana House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill 85-6 Monday afternoon that would restrict access to abortion services in the state. The legislation, which generated no discussion or questions on the House floor, now heads to the Louisiana Senate.
Similar laws passed in other states have been used to shut down several abortion providers around the country. Abortion rights advocates have said the proposal, if approved, would immediately close three of Louisiana's five abortion clinics. Only two facilities in the Shreveport area would be able to meet the new requirements laid out in the bill.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert and several anti-abortion advocates have said the proposal is about protecting women's health. But abortion rights advocates said the legislation has little to do with keeping women safe and that it's only purpose is to further restrict access to abortion.
Sponsored by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, the legislation would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the procedures take place. It also imposes the same restrictions -- such as a requirement for a 24-hour waiting period -- on abortion-inducing medication as surgical abortions.
"Members, this is about the safety of women," said Jackson on the House floor.
Under the legislation, some doctors in private practice would also have to register with the state as an abortion providers for the first time. Their name, location and status as an abortion provider would be public information.
Currently, physicians only have to register with Louisiana as an abortion provider if they performed more than five procedures per month. But if the bill passes, they would have to acquire a license if they perform more than five abortions per year. This includes doctors who do not work out of a clinic, but might provide an abortion to patients they see in their office.
Abortion rights advocates said the more stringent requirements on doctors who perform abortions in their private practice might intimidate medical professionals and cause them to pull back from offering abortion services.
Abortion clinics in Louisiana also have a tough time getting licensed with the state, so physicians in private practice could run into similar roadblocks, said abortion rights supporters. The Department of Health and Hospitals has to approve all abortion providers applications and it scrutinizes the proposals closely.
Jackson's legislation also mandates that abortions induced by medicine be reported anonymously to the Department of Health and Hospitals. Surgical abortions are already tracked by the state agency.
No representative opposed Jackson's bill when it sailed through the House Health and Welfare Committee two weeks ago. The legislation would likely hold up under legal scrutiny. The proposal is largely based on a similar law that passed in Texas, which a federal court declared constitutional last week.