Bill mandates life support for pregnant women

Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would require doctors and hospitals to use life support to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman alive until the birth of her child, no matter her family’s wishes.

The House Health and Welfare Committee backed House Bill 348 Wednesday without objection. The measure by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, moves to the full Louisiana House for consideration.

Badon, a Democrat, described his bill as protecting the sanctity of life.

“We have a responsibility to that unborn child, to give that unborn child a chance,” Badon told the committee.

Julie Schwam Harris, a New Orleans resident who spoke against proposal, said it could set a dangerous precedent and would harm a family’s ability to made decisions in a tragic situation. She said it would relegate a pregnant woman to an inferior legal status.

“This bill wrongly, in my opinion, puts government between a woman and her family, a woman and her doctor and a woman and her faith,” Harris said.

Lawmakers had little debate on the HB348 Wednesday. state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, said while concerns for the mother were understandable, “We need to look at the child.”

Louisiana has a law establishing that in determining life-sustaining procedures, “any ambiguity shall be interpreted to preserve human life.”

Badon’s bill would add more explicit language saying that if a patient is pregnant and an obstetrician determines the woman’s life “can reasonably be maintained in such a way as to permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn child,” the doctor must use life-sustaining procedures.

The proposal was filed for consideration by Louisiana lawmakers after a case in Texas brought national attention to end-of-life decisions.

In January, a Fort Worth hospital pulled life-sustaining treatment for a brain-dead woman and her 23-week-old fetus. The pregnant woman was declared brain-dead in November, but the hospital said it kept her on machines for the sake of the fetus in accordance with Texas law. A judge ordered her removal from life support, siding with the woman’s family.