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Louisiana Legislators Create ‘Cruel’ Barrier for Minors’ Access to Abortion (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

The anti-choice legislation, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, was described by critics as unconstitutional, cruel, and shortsighted.

UPDATE, June 19, 11:16 a.m.: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed SB 111, which will further restrict minors’ access to abortion care. The law takes effect on August 1.

Louisiana lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation to create more restrictions on minors’ access to abortion care, reported the Associated Press.

Under state law, an unmarried pregnant minor must provide a notarized statement from a parent or legal guardian before a doctor can perform an abortion. The only alternative for a pregnant minor is to obtain a court order to terminate a pregnancy, a process known as judicial bypass.

SB 111, sponsored by state Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), would require the parent or legal guardian to provide “evidence of identity” such as a valid and unexpired driver’s license or another type of government-issued identification.
The legislation amends the state’s law regarding judicial bypass.

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Under current law, Louisiana minors who seek a court order to obtain abortion care may be required to undergo an evaluation and counseling session with a state-employed mental health professional.

The new legislation would make that evaluation mandatory; the counselor would be required to verify that the minor is not a victim of so-called coerced abortion and to determine if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or human trafficking.

If the counselor determines the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or human trafficking, the court may appoint a child advocate attorney. The court-appointed advocate must evaluate “how well the minor is informed about pregnancy, fetal development, abortion risks and consequences, the indicators of human trafficking, and abortion alternatives.”

Any person who is not the pregnant minor’s parent or guardian and attempts to provide consent for an abortion could be criminally charged and face up to a $5,000 fine and three years in jail. An employee of an abortion clinic who “knowingly aids and abets a person” who attempts to provide consent for a minor could be criminally charged, and face up to a $1,000 fine and two years in jail.

Speaking on the state senate floor, Mizell claimed the current law was not being applied correctly. “There are people who are posing as parents or guardians of the girls, sometimes for malicious reasons,” Mizell said, though she provided no evidence for her claims.

Megan Snider, a New Orleans attorney who has represented minors seeking judicial bypass, wrote that the legislation is “not only unconstitutional and cruel but also shortsighted,” and would prevent some minors seeking abortion care from reporting abuse.

“Adding more barriers is unnecessary, burdensome and humiliating,” Snider wrote in a letter to the Times-Picayune. “Because the process is already stressful, a new mandate for counseling could harm a teen’s emotional well-being. SB 111 underscores that many of Louisiana’s lawmakers are oblivious to the real-life consequences of their paper proposals.”

SB 111 was passed in the house by Republicans and Democrats in a 93-0 vote; the state senate passed the bill in a 29-6 vote on May 16. The bill now goes to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who has signed several anti-choice bills into law.

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