Sunday, May 26, 2024

Louisiana Senate president says abortion issues won’t be focus during legislative session

by BIZ Magazine

By Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana’s first wide-ranging legislative session since its abortion ban took effect starts next week, but the state’s most influential lawmaker believes proposals to loosen those restrictions won’t get much attention this year. 

“I don’t know how much debate [proposed abortion ban exceptions] will get because of the amount of time that will be taken up with the budget issues,” said Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, during a video forum the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana sponsored Friday. 

Cortez is personally opposed to adding exceptions to the state’s abortion ban that would allow people to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. 

“I’ve been voting Right to Life all 16 years. I’ve never voted against it,” he said. “I’m a Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic doctrine teaches [life is] from conception to natural death.”

Louisiana has prohibited almost all abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade decision last summer. 

The state ban now only allows for the termination of a pregnancy if the health of a pregnant person is in serious danger or if a pregnancy is considered “not viable” and not expected to result in a live child.

But at least two legislators have introduced bills to provide abortion ban exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape and incest. Reps. Delisha Boyd, D-New Orleans, and Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, are sponsoring House Bill 346 and House Bill 549, respectively.

“There’s no doubt that once you begin to chip away at certain freedoms, that you can’t take them back,” said Glover, who supports abortion rights. “These things can be a harbinger of other things yet to come.”

Louisiana’s attitudes about abortion have been shifting left in recent years, according to the annual Louisiana Survey conducted by LSU Public Policy Research Lab.

In 2016, 55% of Louisiana residents polled said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By 2022, only 49% of Louisiana residents LSU  surveyed thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. 

That doesn’t mean Boyd or Glover’s bill will be able to get through the legislative process though. Last year, Glover tried to add rape and incest exceptions onto another bill, but his amendment failed on the House floor in a 62-37 vote. 

Attempts to get rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans in other conservative states like Kentucky and Tennessee have also gone nowhere this year, according to the Associated Press.

Three other Louisiana legislators have also proposed new standards for terminating a “medically futile” pregnancy – defined as one which isn’t expected to result in a baby that can survive. 

Rep. Mary Dubussion, R-Slidell, has filed House Bill 461 that relaxes the restrictions on ending a pregnancy that is no longer viable. People facing these medical complications would have to undergo fewer analyses before qualifying for a legal abortion under her legislation.

Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, is proposing additional conditions – such as cancer and blood disorders –  that would allow people to get a legal abortion in House Bill 598. Chemotherapy and other treatments for these illnesses aren’t compatible with a healthy pregnancy.

Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, would eliminate the current requirement for a second doctor to confirm a pregnancy was not viable prior to an abortion in House Bill 522. Freeman’s bill also lowers fines and eliminates jail time for medical providers and others who assist with illegal abortions.

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