Abortion legislation was hotly debated during this year’s Louisiana legislative session but ultimately all six of the proposed bills restricting abortion overwhelmingly passed through the state legislature. Here’s where the bills currently stand legally.
Headed to the ballot:
House Bill 425: A bill that drew a lot of attention was one by State Rep. Katrina Jackson’s bill that would let voters decide if they wanted an amendment to the state constitution explicitly stating it did not protect a women’s right to an abortion or funding for abortions.
The constitutional amendment received the two-thirds majority of votes it needed to pass both chambers and now heads to the Secretary of State’s office, who will be in charge of putting it on the ballot on November 3, 2020, coinciding with the presidential election. If the majority of Louisiana voters pass it, the provision will be added to the state constitution.
Originally the amendment was to be put on the Oct. 12 ballot, during the governor’s election, but the date was pushed back in conference committee. Some Republicans questioned the move but ultimately the changes were passed.
The state already has a 2006 trigger law which would outlaw abortions with an exception only in the case the mother’s life was at risk but. Like Jackson’s bill, the law was authored by a Democrat and signed into law by a Democratic governor, then Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
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Signed by the governor:
Senate Bill 184: The most discussed abortion restriction this session was one by State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, which would ban abortion once an embryo’s heartbeat is detected — a move experts said would ultimately ban the procedure around six weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed both houses by a large margin and Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law at the end of May.
However, the law will only go into effect if courts uphold a similar Mississippi law, which has currently been blocked by Mississippi District Judge Carlton Reeves. Reeves is the same judge who also ruled that Mississippi’s 15-week-abortion ban was unconstitutional last year and it’s likely he will rule the same for this more restrictive ban.
Senate Bill 221: State Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton’s bill will require abortion providers to provide patients with information relating to the physician’s history and qualifications after it was signed into law by the governor Wednesday. Previously, providers had to tell patients orally the name of the doctor performing the abortion.
Under the new law, they will have to provide orally and in writing details about the doctor’s board certification, whether the clinic has admitting privileges to a hospital, whether the doctor has malpractice insurance and if their license has been revoked or suspended. The law does not require physicians that do not provide abortions to give patients that information.
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Mizell said the bill will give women information that they want to know, while opponents argue that requiring physicians to give patients information other doctors are not required to will scare patients and contribute to stigma surrounding abortion.
Awaiting the governor's likely signature
House Bill 133: State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would expand the legal definition of "abortion" to include medication abortions, those performed early in a pregnancy where the patient is given a pill to end her pregnancy. In practice, the law would require only physicians at the state’s three remaining abortion clinics to administer the pill instead of any licensed OB-GYN as the state currently allows.
The bill passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the governor — who is likely to sign it — for it to become law.
Senate Bill 238: Mizell’s other bill is also awaiting Edwards’ signature. It would require any staff member — not just physicians — of an abortion clinic to report suspected cases of child abuse, human trafficking, rape, incest or coerced abortion to law enforcement.
Proponents say the bill will help protect victims while opponents argue that the bill places an increased burden of legal responsibility on clinic workers, like front desk workers, who may not have much contact with patients.
House Bill 484: State Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, upon the governor’s signature, would require abortion clinics amount of time keep medical records of women who have abortions for seven years. For minors, the records would have to be retained even longer — for at least 10 years, beginning when the patient turns 18.