Roundups Abortion

Legislative Lowlights: Louisiana Democrat Moves to Shred Protections for Abortion Rights

Brie Shea

Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson pre-filed a measure asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that says nothing in the state constitution protects the right to abortion care, while abortion "reversal" bills continued to proliferate in state legislatures.

Rewire.News tracks anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as it works its way through state legislatures. Here’s an overview of the bills we’re watching.

Lawmakers in Arkansas are on track to enact more anti-choice laws; Louisiana’s legislative session is set to commence, which means more abortion restrictions, including a Democrat’s push to change the state’s constitution so it doesn’t protect abortion rights; and legislators in at least 15 states have introduced measures this year to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which amounts to a near total abortion ban.

Arkansas

The Arkansas General Assembly last week passed a handful of anti-choice measures. The state house on Wednesday passed SB 2, the “Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act.” The bill—which passed the state senate last month—would make it a felony for a physician to perform an abortion if they know the patient is seeking it due to a possibility the fetus has Down syndrome. This type of legislation, which has been successfully challenged in court, pits reproductive rights against the rights of those with disabilities. If a pregnant person seeking an abortion is aware that the fetus they are carrying may have Down syndrome, the physician would be required to review their medical history to see if they have ever had an abortion after becoming aware that the fetus may have Down syndrome. Two Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 75-11 vote: state Reps. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and Chris Richey (D-Helena).

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That same day, the state house passed SB 3, requiring health-care providers to file a report within three days to the state health department any time they diagnose or treat someone for a complication that may be the result of an abortion. The measure—which passed the state senate last month—would impose fines for each violation and revoke the medical license of any provider who amasses three violations. Three Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 75-13 vote: state Reps. Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville), Mark Perry, and Chris Richey.

On Thursday, the state house passed SB 448, which would require physicians—at the risk of a felony—to be licensed to practice medicine and be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. The bill—which passed the state senate over two weeks ago—would define “viability” as a “reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the unborn child outside the body of the mother” and repeal the state’s legal presumption that a fetus is viable at 25 weeks of pregnancy. Democratic state Rep. Chris Richey joined Republicans once again to pass the measure in a 70-15 vote.

The state senate last Wednesday passed the “Prohibition of Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act,” which would prohibit state funding of certain types of research involving human embryos. HB 1399—which passed the state house in February—would prohibit state funds from being used to buy or receive gametes or human embryos if it’s known that they would ultimately be destroyed. Four Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 26-1 vote: state Sens. Eddie Cheatham (D-Crossett), Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis), Bruce Maloch (D-Magnolia), and Larry Teague (D-Nashville). The state house on Friday granted final approval of the measure.

All four measures are awaiting signature from Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who has already signed three anti-choice measures into law this session: an 18-week ban, a “trigger law” criminalizing abortion if Roe v. Wade falls, and an abortion “reversal” law.

And finally, the state house public health, welfare and labor committee on Thursday advanced SB 278, which would require abortion facilities to be located within 30 miles of a hospital that provides gynecological or surgical services, increase the state’s medically unnecessary waiting period before abortion from 48 to 72 hours, and require physicians to report on abortions that result in a live birth. The bill—which passed the state senate last month—would also increase the penalty for physicians who fail to comply with informed consent requirements from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The measure is now pending in the full state senate.

Georgia

Despite massive public outcry and the threat of a possible Hollywood boycott, Georgia lawmakers on Friday passed HB 481, which would ban most abortions in the state. The “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure—which was given final approval by the state house in a 92-78 vote—includes exceptions for medical emergencies and pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

HB 481 would require any abortion after the first trimester be performed in a licensed hospital, in a licensed ambulatory surgical center, or in a licensed abortion facility. Only a licensed physician would be able to perform an abortion. The bill contains a fetal “personhood” provision that would amend state law to define “natural person” to mean “any human being including an unborn child”—raising concerns that fetal rights will be placed above the rights of a pregnant person.

Georgia’s LIFE Act is clearly unconstitutional, which is exactly the point. Anti-abortion lawmakers around the country are hoping such laws will trigger a lawsuit that eventually ends up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp last year vowed to sign the “toughest abortion laws in the country.” If he follows through with his threat, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) intends to challenge the law in court.

Indiana

The state senate judiciary committee on Thursday approved HB 1211, a measure that would make it a felony to perform a “dismemberment abortion” unless it’s necessary to prevent serious health risks to the pregnant person or to save their life. The measure—which passed the state house in February—targets dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, the most common method of second-trimester abortion care. Mississippi and West Virginia currently prohibit the procedure, but similar bans have been blocked or temporarily enjoined by courts in eight states.

The measure is now pending in the full state senate.

Kansas

Lawmakers in the state house on Thursday passed HB 2274, a measure requiring abortion care providers to inform their patients it may be possible to “reverse” the effects of a medication abortion. The measure would require doctors to give a pregnant person a written notice containing “reversal” information after the first dose of abortion-inducing drugs. Two Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in an 85-39 vote: state Reps. Jeff Pittman (D-Leavenworth) and Freda Warfield (D-Topeka). Despite criticism from mainstream medical organizations, six states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah) have enacted laws regarding the experimental treatment.

The measure is now pending in the state senate.

Kentucky

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin last Tuesday signed more anti-choice measures into law—an abortion “reversal” bill and a “trigger” law criminalizing abortion should conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade. SB 50 requires information on the potential ability of a physician to “reverse” the effects of abortion-inducing drugs to be provided with each prescription issued for a medication abortion. The measure will take effect this summer.

HB 148, the “Human Life Protection Act,” would ban abortion statewide if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Kentucky is the sixth state (after Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota) to have a “trigger law” that would criminalize abortion should Roe v. Wade fall.

Bevin signed a pair of abortion restrictions into law last month—a selective-abortion ban and a fetal “heartbeat” ban. Both laws have already been blocked in federal court.

Louisiana

Lawmakers in Louisiana have been busy pre-filing legislation in anticipation of the 2019 legislative session set to commence next week. Democratic state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) pre-filed a measure asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that says nothing in the state constitution protects the right to perform or receive an abortion. The Louisiana proposal is similar to an amendment approved by voters last year in West Virginia. Similar ballot measure proposals regarding abortion funding are being considered in Iowa and Oklahoma.

Democratic state Rep. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport) pre-filed SB 184, which would prohibit a person from performing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The measure includes exceptions for an abortion when it’s necessary to prevent the death or serious injury of the pregnant person. Louisiana is the 15th state (after Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) to introduce a “heartbeat ban.” Three states (Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi) have passed the measure—with legal challenges already launched in Kentucky and Mississippi.

Two measures targeting abortion providers were pre-filed in the Louisiana state house. HB 133 would revise the definition of “abortion” in the state’s Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law to make it applicable to medication abortion as well as surgical procedures. HB 484 would establish additional requirements for physicians, administrators, and owners of abortion facilities regarding their patient’s medical records. Another measure filed in the state senate would make various changes to the state’s informed consent law, which requires abortion providers to provide certain information to their patients prior to the performance of an abortion.

Montana

The state house on Friday passed HB 500, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks. Except in cases of medical emergency, the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would prohibit physicians from performing or inducing an abortion without first determining the probable gestational age of the fetus. It would be a felony to perform an abortion once a fetus has been determined to be at 20 weeks’ gestation. A nearly identical ban was struck down last week in North Carolina. Three Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 59-39 vote: state Reps. Jonathan Windy Boy (D-Box Elder), Brad Hamlett (D-Cascade), and Bridget Smith (D-Wolf Point).

The measure is now pending in the state senate.

North Dakota

In a 39-7 vote, the state senate on Friday passed HB 1546, which would ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion. The measure—which passed the state house in January—would make it a felony to perform a D and E abortion. As previously mentioned, similar laws have been blocked or enjoined in eight other states, which is probably why state senate lawmakers amended the bill to make the ban effective only once a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court allows its enforcement.

The measure now heads back to the state house which will need to approve of the changes before it can be sent to the governor.

Ohio

Lawmakers in the state senate last Wednesday passed SB 27, which would require fetal remains from a surgical abortion to be buried or cremated. A similar Texas law was successfully challenged in the courts.

Abortion providers who violate the requirement would face a first-degree misdemeanor. Pregnant people seeking an abortion would need to fill out a form indicating whether or not they want the remains buried or cremated. Pregnant minors seeking an abortion would need parental consent before choosing the final disposition. If a pregnant patient doesn’t want to choose, the abortion provider would be responsible. Democratic state Sen. Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 24-7 vote.

The measure is now pending in the state house.

Oklahoma

The state house judiciary committee last Wednesday advanced SB 614, which would require abortion providers to inform their patients that it may be possible to “reverse” the effects of a medication abortion. The bill would require doctors to give a pregnant person a written notice containing “reversal” information after the first dose of abortion-inducing drugs. A person who provides medication abortion without providing the so-called reversal information would face felony charges.

The bill—which passed the state senate last month—is now pending the full state house.

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