An amendment added to a legislative proposal aimed at prohibiting abortions performed because the fetus has a genetic abnormality appears to have nullified the ban entirely.
Language inserted into House Bill 1019 during Senate debate only prohibits the procedure based on genetic abnormality if the fetus has reached 20 or more weeks after fertilization. Under a 2012 law, Louisiana bans all abortion after 20 weeks already.
Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, said Sunday that he was aware of the change when he asked lawmakers in the House to give his bill final legislative passage a few days earlier. He said despite the provision mooting the ban, “to get the policy started in our state is important.”
“We certainly wanted to set a policy to say all life matters,” Edmonds said. “I think this is the beginning.”
He said the bill, awaiting a decision from Gov. John Bel Edwards, also contains important language that would provide information to pregnant women about available services for infants born with disabilities, to discourage abortion based on genetic abnormalities.
Opponents of the proposal had initially worried the prohibition was unconstitutional, violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman’s right to an abortion.
The bill would penalize the doctor who violates the ban, not the woman. If convicted, a doctor could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and could face malpractice claims and a wrongful death lawsuit.
North Dakota and Indiana have enacted similar laws banning abortion based on a fetus’s genetic abnormality.
Though this latest legislative restriction on abortion appears to be nullified, other bills that have taken aim at the procedure have won final passage and been signed into law.
The governor has signed a ban on the second-trimester abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation, a bill that will force women to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion and a measure that will toughen the criteria for doctors who perform abortions. The Democratic governor also signed legislation to block Medicaid financing for entities that perform abortions in Louisiana, aimed at discouraging Planned Parenthood from offering abortions at its New Orleans clinic.
On Monday, the final day of the regular legislative session, the House and Senate gave final passage to House Bill 815 that would change how abortion providers handle fetal remains. They would have to be buried or cremated, under the measure by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.
That proposal, which also bans the buying, selling or donating of fetal tissue from an abortion, heads to the governor’s desk with unanimous House and Senate votes.