Abortion bill clears Senate

The Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would put more restrictions on abortion clinic operations in Louisiana.

The Senate voted 34-3 for a measure that opponents said would unconstitutionally restrict a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion procedures.

House Bill 388 would require a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges to a hospital with obstetrical and gynecological services within 30 miles of the clinic.

A similar requirement in Texas has led to the closure of more than two dozen abortion clinics.

The Senate more precisely spelled out what constituted “active admitting privileges” — a question that had arisen during a committee hearing on the bill. The House will have to agree to change to give the bill final legislative passage. Gov. Bobby Jindal backs the measure.

State Senate President Pro-tem Sharon Broome, like other proponents, argued that the legislation is designed to protect the health and life of women who may experience major medical issues during and after an abortion. Only Broome, who handled the bill on the state Senate floor, spoke for the bill.

Opponents claim that the restriction is harsher than one put on ambulatory surgical centers that perform more dangerous procedures and will lead to the closure of clinics in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Metairie. That would leave clinics only in Shreveport and Bossier City.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the hospital 30-mile radius requirement. He said it was arbitrary and could set a precedent in cases involving other medical procedures provided in doctor’s offices or clinics.

Broome objected to the Morrell proposal.

“All abortion clinics in Louisiana are within 2 miles of a hospital,” said Broome, D-Baton Rouge. She said the standard is the same for ambulatory surgery centers.

Three senators voted to remove the 30-mile radius and 34 voted against it.

State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, objected to the bill’s passage.

“This particular bill could seriously impede a woman’s ability to do something that is clearly legal,” Peterson said. “You are reducing access to a legal surgical procedure ... This is not the place to regulate women’s health.”

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