NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana House of Representatives ventures further against abortion than any other state legislator, is debating a bill to make women who terminate their pregnancies subject to criminal prosecution for homicide.
Republican Rep. Danny McCormick pushed for a House debate on his bill on Thursday afternoon despite a crescendo of opposition from traditional abortion-rights supporters and longtime enemies of the law. legal abortion. Louisiana’s anti-abortion governor has said he would veto it, and Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose it.
“To suggest that a woman would be jailed for an abortion is just plain nonsense,” Governor John Bel Edwards, a devout Catholic and Democrat who has long split with his party on the abortion issue, said Wednesday.
“Our long-standing policy is that women vulnerable to abortion should not be treated like criminals,” Louisiana Right to Life said in a statement.
Catholic bishops have said they are “unequivocally” opposed to the bill. And the National Right to Life Committee released an “open letter to state legislators across the country” on Thursday that does not specifically mention Louisiana’s bill, but says “any action to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we remain strongly opposed to 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. “When I give equal protection to the unborn child, that is the possibility,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
McCormick’s bill has come under scrutiny in light of the leak last week of a US Supreme Court bill notice that the high court is about to overturn decisions upholding a constitutional right to abortion.
There is no indication yet that lawmakers in other states are passing similar legislation. In Idaho, Republican state Rep. Heather Scott has offered to prosecute women who have abortions, but a committee chairman said Friday he would not allow it. “There are still reasonable people in the Legislature who are going to make sure extreme bills like this don’t get heard,” Rep. Brent Crane said.
“In my committee, I’m not going to hear this bill that puts a woman on trial for murder. If you take that part out of the bill, if you put the doctor on trial for murder, which is exactly what we already have in the Idaho statutes, then we can talk about having a hearing on your project law,” Crane told Idaho Public Television.
McCormick introduced his bill in March with the goal of ending abortion regardless of what any court does.
In addition to rewriting homicide laws to include abortion, he declares that any federal lawa regulation or court order authorizing abortion is void and that any judge who blocks the application of the provisions of the bill could be removed.
Members of the committee that introduced the bill last week expressed doubts about its constitutionality. Edwards called it “patently unconstitutional.”
Edwards joined in critics of the bill, saying it criminalizes certain 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 would not be affected. And he disputes that the bill re-criminalizes aspects of in vitro fertilization, pointing to state law that already grants rights to an “in vitro fertilized human egg.”
Anti-abortion legislation usually passes easily through the Louisiana Legislature, but outright opposition from some anti-abortion stalwarts could bolster attempts to derail the measure or change it heavily.
Louisiana already has laws in place criminalizing abortion, including a ‘trigger law’ guaranteeing it will be a crime if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision establishing the right to abortion . The statutes 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 equal protection under the law. “It’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.