House panel OKs abortion information proposal

Information given women and minor children facing an abortion would be expanded under a proposal that sailed through a House committee Wednesday.

The state Health and Welfare Committee voted to expand the state’s “Woman’s Right to Know” law to require information to be provided on potential psychological impacts of an abortion as well as illegal coercion, abuse and human trafficking. The written information must be provided at least 24 hours prior to an abortion and include resources available to help women as they face any of the situations.

Separate pamphlets would have to be developed and provided on each topic.

The existing law — pushed by anti-abortion forces — requires women to be provided with information related to potential physical problems as well as alternatives to an abortion.

“This is an informational bill. This allows women to make an informed decision,” said state Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central. “This is not trying to tell them what to do but to provide tools so they can truly make informed decisions.”

The original bill, House Bill 727, dealt only with providing information about the “increased risk of psychiatric and psychological harm” associated with an abortion.

In committee, Ivey revised the measure to address situations in which women trapped in human trafficking situations are forced to have abortions. “They need to know they can be rescued from their situation,” he said.

Cindy Collins, with Louisiana Abortion Recovery, said those forced into prostitution and trafficking often are forced to have multiple abortions — “eight to ten in their youth.”

The victims experience “trauma on top of trauma. … They need help,” Collins said. “These brochures can actually be the point of rescue.”

“An abortion decision is certainly not an easy one,” said Angie Thomas, chief executive officer of the Woman’s New Life Center. She said abortion decisions should “not be made in a vacuum. Many of these women are experiencing coercion.”

Opponents said women already have access to information about potential psychological problems.

“This is an unnecessary bill because we are already doing these things,” said Sylvia Cochran, an administrator of abortion clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“We do not talk anybody into an abortion,” she said. “We follow the law and we go beyond that. … We deal with patients on a physical as well as a psychological basis.”

Cochran said referral lists are provided.

Later, the panel also advanced House Bill 305, which would ban those who provide elective abortions or their affiliates from providing information about human sexuality and family planning in public and charter schools.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast officials opposed the measure.