Bill to keep brain-dead pregnant women alive heads to Jindal’s desk

Another anti-abortion measure headed to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk Monday.

The Louisiana Legislature gave final approval agreeing to changes to a bill that would keep a pregnant woman on life support to give the unborn child a chance at life.

Louisiana has been ranked the most anti-abortion state by virtue of the laws it has passed in recent years. The 2014 Legislature saw a continuation of that trend as legislators passed more restrictions on the operations of abortion clinics, including the provider having active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility. In addition, there are new requirements that women seeking abortions be provided with information on psychological and emotional aspects.

House Bill 1274 — dealing with the life support issue — is the latest to go the governor for signing into law

The compromise, ironed out by a six-person committee, stripped a state Senate change that would allow family members to make the decision on whether life support should be stopped.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, had argued that families, not the government, should be making decisions about loved ones. The state Senate added Morrell’s provision on a 20-18 vote earlier in the session.

The new version of HB1274 specifies that the obstetrician would have to have determined that the unborn child is 20 weeks or more along and the pregnant woman’s life could reasonably be maintained in such a way as to permit the continuing development of the unborn and a live birth.

The information would have to be provided to relevant family members by the obstetrician.

The legislation is now silent on the family decision-making authority, including in cases in which there is a living will.

The bill states that if there is any ambiguity, the law should be interpreted to preserve human life.

The House voted 87-1 for the new version. The Senate followed suit a short time later on a 31-2 vote.

HB1274 is 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.

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