Two bills that would further restrict abortions in Louisiana neared final legislative passage Wednesday.
The Louisiana House voted 95-1 for a Senate-approved bill under which a woman would be offered the chance to hear the heartbeat of her unborn fetus prior to an abortion. The measure returns to the Senate for concurrence on House changes.
Earlier in the day, a House committee advanced a Senate-passed legislative ban on abortions 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is 22 weeks gestational age. The “Viable and Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” now heads to House floor for action.
Both measures passed in quick fashion with none of the vocal opposition that has accompanied anti-abortion legislation in years past.
“Louisiana ranks as the No. 1 pro-life state in America,” said state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. The two bills strengthen that ranking, he said.
State Rep. Valerie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, handled Senate Bill 708 which she called the “Hear the Heartbeat Act” sponsored by Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge.
SB708 would require women to hear the heartbeat and watch an ultrasound of the unborn fetus prior to an abortion unless they specifically refuse.
The measure would also change the time between an examination and a procedure from two hours to 24 hours.
Proponents contend the legislation does not take away a woman’s right to an abortion but rather requires decisions to be made earlier.
State Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, cast the lone “no” vote. Eight state representatives did not vote.
Earlier in the day, the House Health and Welfare Committee endorsed Senate Bill 766 which proponents said would stop abortions after a fetus has the ability to feel pain.
There would be exceptions in instances where it would be “medically futile” because the life is unsustainable outside the womb and when the life and health of the woman would be in jeopardy.
Louisiana Right to Life executive director Benjamin Clapper said using a conservative estimate, the change could save about 150 lives annually.
No one testified against the legislation, sponsored by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast executive Julie Mickleberry filed a card in opposition.
The committee adopted minor amendments to the measure, then approved it without a no vote.