The Louisiana Legislature last week passed a bill by State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, which would require doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of a hospital. House Bill 388 passed the state House of Representatives in March and passed the Senate by a 34-3 vote on May 14. It heads back to the House for concurrence in minor amendments and has the enthusiastic support of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, attempted to add an amendment that would remove the "arbitrary" 30-mile radius rule. In its place, doctors would have to receive admitting privileges to any hospital with an obstetrics and gynecology section. Morrell said he was concerned that the bill's 30-mile radius excludes many areas throughout the state where "there is no hospital within 30 miles, period," not only making procedures impossible, but setting a precedent for all specialized procedures. That amendment failed 3-34.
State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, objected to the bill, calling it a "terrible bill" that "could seriously impede a woman's ability to something legal in the state."
"You're reducing access to a legal surgical procedure," she told the Senate, adding the bill doesn't increase the safety of the procedure. "This will inevitably lead to the closure of clinics where the procedure is performed. ... That might be your intent, reducing the ability for a woman to get [an abortion]. ... If you want to stop women from getting access to this, this'll do it. It hurts women."
State Sens. Peterson, Ed Murray and Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, all Democrats, voted against the measure. Metro area Sens. John Alario, Conrad Appel, A.G. Crowe, David Heitmeier, Danny Martiny and Gary Smith voted in favor. (Smith and Heitmeier are Democrats; the others are Republicans.) Morrell was absent and did not vote.
Marjorie Esman, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana, said in a statement that the bill, once signed into law, "will make health care less accessible and force women back to the days of illegal and dangerous back- alley procedures."
"This law is not about women's health," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "It was designed by politicians — not doctors — to end access to safe, legal abortion." One-third of abortion clinics in Texas have closed following the passage of a similar bill there.
HB 388 is among a slate of abortion-related bills this session, including a bill by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, that would prohibit termination of life-sustaining procedures for pregnant women.