Even with a majority of Louisiana legislators and voters opposed to abortion, the days when off-the-shelf anti-abortion legislation can be passed without regard to Louisiana law appear to be limited. That is the case with a bill proposed by Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, to ban what she and other members admitted is not a widespread problem in Louisiana: the use of abortion to select for a baby’s sex.
A Senate committee including several lawyers has rightly questioned the bill passed by the House.
The Senate Judiciary B Committee deadlocked on a 2-2 vote for motions both to defer and to advance the measure, which is being pushed nationally and in states by anti-abortion forces.
House Bill 701’s sponsor, Whitney, told The Associated Press that she’s not sure if she’ll try to get another hearing. Bill supporter Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said the legislation now faces “an uncertain fate.”
The House passed the bill 81-2, but only after several lawyers — even some eventually voting for the bill — noted that it contained references that were inconsistent with Louisiana law. Legislating by pulling “sample” law off the Internet should not be encouraged.
Further, the Whitney bill would impose harsh penalties on physicians who may or may not really know the motivations of the women seeking abortions. That suggests an intent to put abortion providers out of business, rather than any high-minded protection of girls, as Whitney asserted.
Whitney riled two committee members as she concluded testimony saying those who voted against the measure were “willing to kill baby girls.” Otherwise, she said, “it’s an easy vote.”
This over-the-top rhetoric is also a sign that members of the Senate committee were right to look at the actual provisions of the measure, rather than being led by the nose by politics — the way that more than 80 members of the House were.
We also object to the notion that there is no exception for victims of rape or incest. That was a big issue in the early anti-abortion debates in the Legislature in the 1980s and 1990s. We have consistently opposed anti-abortion bills that do not allow reasonable exceptions in these tragic circumstances.
Obviously, groups posting the sample bills on websites do not share our view, but we hope that enough Louisiana legislators will look behind the slogans and explore the complexities of law.
This is not the end of the debate. While committee Chairman J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, opposed the bill as premature, he suggested a resolution that would collect data to determine if sex selection is in fact an issue.
This is what should have been done by the House earlier.