Anti-abortion bill passes House

The state House of Representatives quickly and overwhelmingly endorsed new restrictions Monday on abortion clinic operations in Louisiana.

The House voted 85-6 for the measure that among other things would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital that provides obstetrics and gynecology services. Fourteen representatives out of the 105-member House did not vote.

Proponents said House Bill 388 is written to protect the health and life of women.

Opponents counter the restrictions would unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion, making access more difficult.

“Everything we have in this bill is constitutional,” said bill sponsor Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe. “This is about the safety of women.”

Abortion-rights advocates countered that abortion clinics would be subject to stricter requirements than ambulatory surgery centers, which perform more-dangerous procedures with higher levels of sedation.

The requirement has led to the shutdown of an estimated 20 abortion clinics in Texas, where arrangements have not been possible.

A federal appeals court recently upheld the physician privilege section of the Texas law. The appeals court overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose. After the lower court’s ruling, the appeals court allowed the restrictions to go into effect while it considered the case.

The case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Abortion clinics in New Orleans, Metairie and Baton Rouge would be forced to close, abortion-rights advocates testified in a House committee.

That would leave two clinics in the state, one each in Shreveport and Bossier City.

The House Health and Welfare Committee advanced the bill after a lengthy hearing about a week ago. No committee member voted against the measure.

Only Jackson spoke on the House floor before the vote came, and her remarks were brief. The bill heads to the Senate for debate.

HB388 also would require the pregnant woman be provided with telephone numbers of the physician or other health care personnel with 24-hour access to the woman’s medical records in the event abortion complications arise. The facility would also have to disclose whether it requires its employees to reach sales quotas.

In addition, the bill would require the same voluntary and informed consent and physician reporting to the state health agency in cases of medically or drug-induced abortions.

The physician also would have to report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “a serious adverse event” that occurs during or after administration of a drug used to induce an abortion.