News Human Rights

Louisiana Committee Passes Bill That Would Keep Pregnant Women on Mechanical Support Against Their Wishes

Teddy Wilson

After emotional testimony given by opponents of a bill that would allow the state of Louisiana to invalidate any advance directives when a patient is pregnant, regardless of the viability of the fetus, a committee voted to pass the bill and send it to the full senate.

After emotional testimony given by opponents of a bill that would allow the state of Louisiana to invalidate any advance directives when a patient is pregnant, regardless of the viability of the fetus, a committee voted to pass the bill and send it to the full senate. If passed by the senate and signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the bill would make it legal for the state to prohibit a family from directing physicians to remove mechanical support from a brain-dead pregnant woman.

The sponsor of the proposed law, Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that the legislation would not take away anyone’s rights. “It just gives a voice to the unborn child,” said Badon. “You can still die a natural death.”

HB 1274 would prohibit the “withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining procedures from a pregnant woman.” The bill does make exceptions for when maintaining mechanical support would not “permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn child,” or would be “physically harmful to the pregnant woman,” or “[c]ause pain to the pregnant woman that cannot be alleviated by medication.”

The bill is similar to a Texas law, which led to a lawsuit filed by Erick Munoz against a hospital that said it had no choice but to keep his wife, Marlise, who had been declared brain-dead, on mechanical support to continue her pregnancy, despite her end-of-life directives and family’s wishes. The case drew national attention and debate over the role state government should play in becoming involved in the end-of-life decisions of pregnant women.

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“No matter how noble the intentions of this bill, it is wrong-headed and a problem,” said Julie Schwam Harris, a state resident who opposes the bill, in her testimony. “It relegates a pregnant woman to an inferior status, different from men and different from non-pregnant women.”

Melissa Flournoy, a reproductive rights advocate, also testified at the hearing, saying that families should have the right to make end-of-life decisions and that the bill represents a “tremendous” state overreach. “If a family wants to keep a love one alive to incumbent a fetus, there is no state law that will prevent them from doing that,” said Flournoy. “We need to trust our families and our physicians to make end-of-life decisions.”

Both women shared personal stories of end-of-life decisions they experienced with relatives, and each showed emotion and held back tears during their testimony.

Badon responded to the testimonies by saying that even if someone has a will circumstances can change. “Do you really want a great uncle that someone has not seen in 25 years making a decision like this?” asked Badon. “The legislation ensures that if their is any ambiguity that the decision is based purely on the trust of the OB-GYN.”

The bill, which passed the house by a vote of 95 to 0, will now move to the full senate. If passed by the senate unamended it will be sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal for signature or veto.

News Abortion

Common Abortion Procedure Banned in Louisiana With Democratic Support

Teddy Wilson

Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in several states over the past year. The measures have been copies of bills drafted by the legislation mill known as the National Right to Life Committee.

Louisiana’s GOP-held legislature continued its legislative assault on reproductive rights, passing a bill Tuesday to ban a common method of abortion care. Lawmakers also put on a hold a measure to ban abortion care due to genetic abnormality.

HB 1081, sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), would prohibit a person from intentionally performing or attempting to perform a “dismemberment abortion” unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person.

The bill targets the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. During the procedure, a physician dilates the patient’s cervix and removes the fetus.

Physicians who violate the law could face up to two years in jail and be fined up to $1,000 per violation.

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The state senate passed the bill with a bipartisan 36-2 vote. The house in April passed the bill in a 83-0 vote, with 16 Democrats and five Republicans abstaining.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) will sign the bill, Richard Carbo, the governor’s spokesperson, told the Associated Press.

Republican legislators have pushed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in several states over the past year. The measures have been copies of bills drafted by the legislation mill known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

West Virginia’s Republican-majority legislature in March voted to override the veto of a similar bill. The governors of Mississippi and Alabama signed similar bills this year.

State courts have blocked such measures passed by GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Another bill stalled Tuesday in Louisiana’s State Senate Health and Welfare Committee amid lawmakers’ concerns about whether the bill is constitutional.

HB 1019, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge), would prohibit a person from performing an abortion knowing that the patient is seeking abortion care solely because the “unborn child” has been diagnosed with either a genetic abnormality or a potential for a genetic abnormality.

The bill defines “genetic abnormality” as “any defect, disease, or disorder that is inherited genetically,” and provides that “the term includes, without limitation, any physical disfigurement, scoliosis, dwarfism, Down syndrome, albinism, amelia, and any other type of physical, mental, or intellectual disability, abnormality, or disease.”

A physician who violates the law would face a fine of up to $1,000 per incidence and/or up to two years in prison.

The bill has already been passed by the house on a 75-1 vote, with 19 Democrats and nine Republicans abstaining.

A number of people testified before the committee, sharing personal stories of pregnancies in which the fetus was diagnosed with a disability or fetal anomaly, reported the New Orleans Advocate.

Disability advocates say these types of anti-choice measures, introduced in several states in recent years, often promote false stereotypes of people with disabilities and their families.

State Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) argued that the state shouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend an unconstitutional law, reported the Associated Press.

“If we cannot win, why are we doing this? We can’t afford it. We’re broke,” Luneau said.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) said that he was not sure if the bill would “pass constitutional muster” because it could be argued that it would restrict access to abortion care, reported the New Orleans Advocate.

“I’m pro-life, but when I get one like this, it puts me in a box: Do I go with the constitution, or make a decision against my oath?” Claitor said.

After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a similar bill in March, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the law. It is the first legal challenge to such a measure.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Governors Face Twitter Backlash

Jenn Stanley

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has made anti-choice laws a key part of his agenda, so Kentucky women are fielding their reproductive health questions to #AskBevinAboutMyVag.

The social media world has exploded this week with hashtags like  and , with which Kentuckians and Ohioans field their reproductive health questions to their anti-choice governors.

Both Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) have made passing anti-choice legislation a key part of their respective agendas, with Kasich proving to be among the nation’s most effective in attacking reproductive rights.

Louisvillian Molly Shah last week created the hashtag #AskBevinAboutMyVag, after Bevin signed into law a Republican-backed bill forcing women to sit through a real-time counseling session 24 hours before an abortion procedure.

Shah and co-authors Emily Van Bogaert and Jamie Yeager wrote a commentary in Insider Louisville condemning the anti-choice legislative agenda that inspired the social media campaign. They explained that while Bevin was signing the “informed consent” bill, another anti-choice bill passed through a Kentucky state senate subcommittee consisting of only men. 

SB 152 landed in the (all-male) Senate Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection Committee, which is charged with handling “matters relating to veterans, including veterans’ rights, benefits and education; veterans’ nursing homes; military affairs and civil defense; national guard; retention of military bases; safety of citizens and security of public buildings and property; military memorials and cemeteries” — and, of course, every woman’s private parts.

We appreciate that Kentucky’s lawmakers consider our birth cannons to be American heroes, but why didn’t the bill start out in the Health and Welfare Committee? Was it because that committee actually includes female senators?

The authors are referring to a bill that would require doctors to perform an ultrasound and describe the image to people seeking abortion care. If SB 152 were to pass, doctors who failed to follow the mandate would be forced to pay a $100,000 penalty for the first offense and $250,000 for subsequent offenses.

“Despite the fact that men feel welcome to regulate our vaginas, they squirm upon hearing us discuss them in public,” the commentary reads. The social media campaign caught on fast and garnered international attention.

Shah later urged women to tweet at Kasich, who has been in the national spotlight due to his 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

Kentucky’s social media campaign will step into the real world on February 23 at 1 p.m., when the ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky host a reproductive rights rally at the state capitol. Until then, Shah, Bogaert, and Yaeger used their commentary to remind women where to go if they have any questions about their vaginas:

Oh, and don’t forget — you can always call (502) 564-2611 to schedule an appointment at Dr. Bevin’s clinic, or (502) 564-8100 to consult your triage nurses in the Kentucky Legislature.