Doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana will be required to have the ability to admit patients to a nearby hospital, a restriction that abortion-rights groups say will shutter three of the state’s five clinics.
With no debate Wednesday, the House voted 88-5 to send House Bill 388 by state Rep. Katrina Jackson to the desk of Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Republican governor supports the proposal and intends to sign it into law.
Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, described the measure as “one of the pieces of legislation that will be most impactful to this state regarding the pro-life movement.”
Abortion-rights groups say doctors who provide the procedure have difficulty getting hospital privileges, not because of their credentials, but because hospitals are leery of the attention those privileges could draw.
Proponents say the measure will ensure women have access to proper care if they have complications from an abortion, describing possible medical problems like hemorrhages, cervical injuries and infections.
Opponents say the restrictions are medically unnecessary and designed to limit abortion access. They say the legislation will shut down all abortion clinics south of Shreveport, creating the need for a five-hour drive each way for women who live in the southeastern end of the state.
But no one spoke against the bill on the House floor.
The new rules are modeled on Texas restrictions that have been adopted across several states. But the protests and sharply divided debates of Texas weren’t repeated during the Louisiana Legislature’s discussion, and the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the strongly conservative state.
Under the measure, doctors who perform abortions will have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed and that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services. The new requirement will kick in Sept. 1.
In March, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar Texas law that has been blamed for closing one-third of that state’s abortion clinics. The operators of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic say the same type of law recently passed there would force its closure. In Alabama, the same restrictions are being challenged in court this week.
The bill also will force women who take the abortion pill to meet the same 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements as those who have surgical abortions. It won’t, however, apply to emergency contraceptives, known as the “morning-after pill.”
In addition, the measure will require a doctor who performs more than five abortions a year to meet the health and safety inspections required of abortion clinics. Current law sets that requirement at 60 abortions.