Senate OKs 2 anti-abortion bills

Third bill requiring dying pregnant women be kept alive for delivery fails

The Louisiana Senate approved two anti-abortion bills Tuesday, but balked at another measure aimed at protecting the life of the unborn child.

One measure passed by the Senate would require women seeking abortions to have information about potential psychological and emotion impacts. Another would ban abortion providers from providing health education in public and charter schools.

But in a rare action for the Louisiana Legislature regarding measures that generally restrict legal pregnancy-ending procedures, the state Senate rejected a bill that would have required physicians to keep dying pregnant women on life support to permit fetal development and a live birth.

Senators altered the measure to say that nothing would interfere with the rights of the spouse, children, parents or siblings of a woman to make end-of-life decisions.

House Bill 1274, sponsored by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, was similar to a Texas law that banned medical officials from cutting off life-support to a pregnant woman.

In a case that made national headlines, a Fort Worth hospital kept a pregnant, brain-dead woman on life support for two months against her family’s wishes.

The hospital ended up following a judge’s order to remove Marlise Munoz from life-sustaining machines instead of pursuing further litigation.

Badon’s bill had been zipping along through the legislative process. The House had passed HB1274 on a vote of 95-0.

“I know this has become a pro-life, pro-choice bill,” said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, who sponsored the amendment. But, he said, “We are talking about a family who has a member on life support and the government telling the family you can’t make the decision related to your family member. The government is going to make the decision for you.”

State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, started off saying he was very much pro-life but felt that not including family in a life support decision took away fundamental rights.

State Sen. Ben Nevers, who handled House Bill 1274 in the Senate on Tuesday, said families could be estranged and decisions made adverse to the unborn. “If we have to err, let’s err on the side of life and let’s protect the unborn child. Allow them to come into this world and be the best they can be,” said Nevers, D-Bogalusa.

The Senate voted 20-18 for Morrell’s amendment giving the decision-making to families, then voted 36-2 for the measure. HB1274 returns to the House for concurrence in the Senate change.

Earlier in the day, the Senate approved measures that would:

  • Require patients seeking abortion be provided information about potential psychological and emotional impacts. House Bill 1262, sponsored by state Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, also would also require information about illegal coercion, abuse and human trafficking to be provided via separate booklets on each subject.
  • Ban “abortion providers” from providing health education in public schools. House Bill 305, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, is headed to the governor’s desk for expected signing into law after a 31-5 Senate vote.

The measure didn’t name an organization. But state Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said the legislation clearly targets Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Planned Parenthood provides sound and age-appropriate information, she said, adding that the bill assumes the organization promotes abortions.

“This is a direct attack on an entity that is performing a very, very good service,” Peterson said.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Louisiana state director Melissa Flournoy released a statement saying, “Lawmakers would fail our young people by restricting the ability of trained educators from providing accurate, age-appropriate sex education or materials in schools.”

“In a state with dangerously high rates of teen pregnancy and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), this bill could have devastating, lifelong consequences for our teens,” Flournoy said.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.