Louisiana debates murder charges for women who have abortions

Louisiana debates murder charges for women who have abortions

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana House of Representatives is venturing further against abortion as legislators in every other state, is debating a bill to subject women who terminate their pregnancy to prosecution for manslaughter.

Republican Rep. Danny McCormick pushed for a floor debate in the House of Representatives on his bill Thursday afternoon, despite a crescendo of opposition from traditional abortion-rights advocates and longtime enemies of legal abortion. Louisiana’s anti-abortion governor said he would veto it, and Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose it.

“To suggest that a woman will be jailed for having an abortion is just plain absurd,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a staunch Catholic and Democrat who has long broken with his party on the abortion issue, said in a press release on Wednesday.

“Our longstanding policy is that women at risk of abortion should not be treated as criminals,” Louisiana Right to Life said in a statement.

The Catholic bishops said they were “clearly” opposed to the law. And the National Committee on the Right to Life on Thursday issued an “open letter to national legislators” that didn’t specifically mention the Louisiana statute, but did say, “Any measure designed to criminalize women or punishing is not anti-life, and we stand firm against such efforts.”

McCormick disagrees, saying a woman who has an abortion should be in the same legal position as a woman who takes the life of a child after birth. “If I give the unborn child the same protection, it is possible,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday evening.

McCormick’s bill has come under scrutiny in the light of leaked US Supreme Court bills last week Statement suggesting the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn decisions upholding a constitutional right to abortion.

There is no indication yet that legislatures in other states are picking up similar laws. In Idaho, Republican Rep. Heather Scott has proposed criminalizing women who perform abortions, but a committee chair said Friday he would not allow it. “There are still sane people in the Legislature who will make sure that such extreme bills don’t get heard,” said Rep. Brent Crane.

“On my committee, I will not be hearing this bill that will put a woman on trial for murder. If you take out that part of the bill, if you try the doctor for murder, which is exactly what we already have in the Idaho statutes, then we can talk about a hearing on your bill. Crane said on Idaho public television.

McCormick introduced his bill in March to end abortion regardless of what a court does.

In addition to rewriting homicide laws to include abortions, it explains every federal lawOrdinance or court ruling allowing abortion is invalid and that any judge who blocks enforcement of the bill’s provisions could be indicted.

Members of the committee that brought forward the bill last week expressed doubts about its constitutionality. Edwards called it “manifestly unconstitutional”.

Edwards joined the bill’s critics, saying it criminalizes some types of contraception and parts of the in vitro fertilization process. McCormick said Thursday that forms of birth control that don’t destroy a fertilized egg are unaffected. And he denies that the bill would recriminalize some aspects of in vitro fertilization, citing state laws that already grant rights to an “in vitro fertilized human egg.”

Anti-abortion legislation is usually passed with ease in the Louisiana legislature, but vigorous opposition from some anti-abortion supporters could bolster attempts to derail the measure or change it significantly.

Louisiana already has laws criminalizing abortion, including a “trigger law” that ensures it is a crime if the Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that established abortion rights . The laws appear to exempt women from prosecution, although some abortion rights advocates have suggested they need to be tightened.

McCormick said existing laws are insufficient to give fetuses the same legal protections. “That’s a debate we need to have in Louisiana,” he said. “There are good people on both sides of the debate.”


Associated Press reporter Holly Ramer contributed to this report from Concord, New Hampshire.

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