Abortion rights supporters, opponents hold dueling rallies at Governor’s Mansion, Capitol _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Abortion rights advocates rally in front of the Governor's Mansion Thursday morning June 2, 2016, in response to anti-abortion legislation that has passed this session.

The League of Women Voters of Louisiana concurs with the national League of Women Voters (LWVUS) that all citizens need to have access to quality health care (including reproductive services) at affordable cost.

Reproductive health services are a public health as well as an economic issue. It is not as simple as some declare. It is highly emotional and entangled with many other views. However the paramount issue is that women, not the state, should be in control of their bodies. It is a basic right of privacy.

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Louisiana’s legislative attempts are making it harder for women to access and get healthcare as evidenced by the number of bills proposed to identify and control “certain” regions/aspects of the female body. The Legislature justifies these new laws with compelling wording but essentially they chip away women’s privacy and freedoms:

• HB 484 requires physicians/staff at abortion clinics retain medical record/documents for an unreasonable time due to “human trafficking” or face extreme penalties

• SB 184 prohibits abortion, six-week detectable heartbeat measurement , resulting in the criminalization of women and their providers and an outright ban on access to safe healthcare reproduction services

• SB 221 requires an extreme application of medical standards of care and communications “only” for women seeking abortions and

• HB 425 takes away women’s constitutional right while the state “protects only certain forms of life.”

Many other proposed bills with different wording have the same underlying intent and nature as these “abortion bills”.

During the 1920s the LWV fought for and won the right for women to vote with passage of the 19th Amendment. This was despite the fact that both women and men fought hard against it. It is important to recognize that the issue of women’s reproductive healthcare services is similar in that both women and men are pushing for these “abortion type” laws with various agendas.

The LWV concurs with the 1982 LWVUS position that individuals have a constitutional right to privacy to make reproductive decisions. Therefore, we will continue to educate, advocate, engage and fight for this right, trusting all women to make the best decisions for their circumstance.

In summary, states such as Nevada and Illinois recognize the risks of not allowing women to make their healthcare decisions and have passed legislation recently to protect “fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about one's own reproductive health."

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The LWVLA will continue to work toward the day when Louisiana will likewise trust women and respect their constitutional and moral right and not continue to follow others rushing to take away those rights and freedom to make their own healthcare decisions.

Linda Hawkins

healthcare program chair, League of Women Voters of Louisiana

Abita Springs