An anti-abortion bill suffered a likely fatal blow Wednesday when it was sent to a House committee amid concerns the measure could cost the state $4.5 billion in federal healthcare funds.
The measure, House Bill 645, was aimed at banning all abortions in Louisiana and was set for debate in the full House.
But the House voted 65-30 to instead send the measure to the House Appropriations Committee because of concerns the bill would run afoul of federal law.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said written financial estimates by legislative officials — called a fiscal note — state the legislation could cost the state $4.5 billion in federal Medicaid dollars.
Medicaid is the government health insurance program for the poor that is largely federally funded.
While the bill aimed to ban all abortions, a federal law called the Hyde Amendment requires states to use Medicaid funds for abortions to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
HB645 does not include an exemption for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
“For that reason I am asking you to commit this to the Committee on Appropriations,” Fannin said.
“It could jeopardize funding,” he said.
Bill sponsor state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said returning it to a House committee for further study would kill the measure because the Legislature adjourns on June 23.
LaBruzzo also disputed arguments that the state stood to suffer a major loss of federal funds if his bill became law.
“It is not realistic,” he told the House.
The legislation defined life as beginning at the moment of fertilization and said the unborn would be considered a “natural person” from the moment of conception.
However, some key anti-abortion groups questioned the wisdom of the bill because of concerns it could hinder their bid to make most abortions illegal.
House floor action on the bill was postponed on Monday and Tuesday while LaBruzzo said he was trying to forge agreement for the bill among anti-abortion groups and awaiting the fiscal note.
HB645 was previously approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Financial issues are especially sensitive this year because state services face a $1.6 billion drop in state aid.
Fannin’s committee plays a key role in developing the state’s $25 billion operating budget and other spending bills.