The Louisiana house passed an omnibus bill Monday, without discussion or debate, that would severely restrict access to reproductive health care and could close three of the five abortion clinics in the state.
The house passed HB 388, sponsored by Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), by a vote of 85 to 6. The legislation, which is similar to measures passed in Oklahoma and Texas, would require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they provide abortions. And it would impose a 24-hour waiting period on surgical abortions (a measure already in place for medication abortions in the state).
Another provision of the legislation would require physicians to register with the state if they perform just five abortions within a year. Currently, physicians must register with the state if they provide at least five abortions per month. This state registry is public information; it includes providers’ names and the location where they perform abortions.
Reproductive rights advocates say that if the bill passes, the state will be left with only two abortion clinics, both in Shreveport.
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Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, told Rewire that HB 388 would affect the clinic’s ability to provide timely abortion care to everyone who seeks it. Hope has two physicians who provide abortions, one who already has admitting privileges and another who is seeking them. If the clinic is left with a single physician who provides abortions, that circumstance, combined with the likely influx of patients if other clinics in the state close, could result in patients facing longer wait times, with some women likely having abortions later in pregnancy.
Rep. Jackson, who said on the house floor that HB 388 is about the “safety of women,” worked with Louisiana Right to Life and the Bioethics Defense Fund on the legislation. Louisiana Right to Life Executive Director Benjamin Clapper invoked rogue abortion provider Kermit Gosnell as justification for the restrictions, saying they “will protect Louisiana women from Gosnell-like abortionists.”
Anti-choice activists have often used Gosnell as justification for laws restricting access to abortion, despite little evidence that there are widespread incidents of the type of criminal activity in which Gosnell engaged.
Pittman said she was “horrified” and “appalled” when she read the legislation. “It in no way improves the health and safety of women of Louisiana,” she said.