Louisiana House lawmakers on Thursday pared down a controversial bill that included language seeking to classify abortions as homicides and potentially allow for women to be criminally charged for terminating their pregnancies.
House Bill 813, which was introduced by Republican state Rep. Danny McCormick, would have redefined a person to include an unborn child from "the moment of fertilization." The proposal drew widespread condemnation, including from anti-abortion groups in the state such as Louisiana Right to Life, because it is their "longstanding policy that abortion-vulnerable women should not be treated as criminals."
An amendment introduced Thursday by Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh deleted the language of McCormick's bill and replaced it with language similar to another bill, Senate Bill 342, which passed the state Senate last week.
The amendment was adopted by the state House in a 65-26 vote, rendering the House bill effectively dead, Seabaugh said. The Senate version will be heard by a House committee next week, he added.
The bill as amended would not outlaw contraception, criminalize any aspect of in vitro fertilization or apply any criminal penalties to pregnant women.
Speaking on the House floor, Seabaugh had argued that the bill as originally introduced has a "number of problems" and noted the Supreme Court draft opinion that was reported last week by Politico that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
"We're on the precipice of the most significant pro-life victory in this country in 50 years. We should be celebrating together, embracing each other as brothers in Christ," he said. "We should not be at each other's throats over a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional, makes criminals out of women, would not prevent a single abortion, and as far as I can tell, was only presented to give a couple of misguided people a platform."
When the bill had passed out of committee in a 7-2 vote last week, state anti-abortion groups voiced opposition, including Louisiana Right to Life, which said the legislation was "inconsistent with its mission to protect moms and babies." And on Thursday, leading national anti-abortion groups penned an open letter urging states to reject legislation that would criminalize women for having abortions.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a rare anti-abortion Democrat, also spoke out against the bill this week, calling it "radical."
"In addition to the fact that this legislation is patently unconstitutional, this bill would criminalize the use of certain types of contraception, as well as parts of the in vitro fertilization process, and it could even serve as a barrier to life-saving medical treatment for a woman who is suffering a miscarriage," Edwards said in a statement. "To suggest that a woman would be jailed for an abortion is simply absurd."
Following Thursday's vote, Louisiana Right to Life said it does not expect the legislature to consider HB 813 further this session.
"Now that HB 813 is behind us, we look forward to returning to our work of preparing for the overturn of Roe v. Wade and securing additional resources for alternatives to abortion in Louisiana," Benjamin Clapper, the group's executive director, said in a news release.
Lousiana is one of several states that has a so-called trigger ban in place, which would ban a medical provider from performing an abortion procedure or providing drugs intended to induce an abortion in the case that Roe v. Wade is overturned.
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