The Louisiana House replaced a controversial abortion bill that would penalize the woman undergoing the procedure with one that punishes the providers, a reversal that comes after weeks of tension among anti-abortion advocates who painted the bill as too extreme.
The Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act of 2022’s text was gutted and replaced Thursday with an amendment introduced by conservative state Rep. Alan Seabaugh. The legislation that was initially introduced by state Rep. Danny McCormick and passed out of committee on a 7-2 vote would have designated abortion as homicide, and the woman who underwent the procedure would have been charged with murder.
The original bill went far beyond other anti-abortion laws placed on the books in recent years that target abortion providers, not patients. Critics also feared that the bill’s redefinition of "person" to mean any human being from the moment of fertilization could imperil women’s access to birth control, emergency contraception, and in vitro fertilization.
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The original bill’s intention to charge patients as murderers alienated anti-abortion advocates, who called the bill too extreme. The amendment passed Thursday, however, was celebrated by Louisiana Right to Life.
“Louisiana Right to Life applauds the Louisiana House of Representatives for a united stand for life and for moms,” the group said. “While there was no final vote on HB 813 after Rep. McCormick returned the bill to the legislative calendar, the adoption of Rep. Seabaugh’s amendment shows our legislators’ commitment to protecting life when Roe v. Wade is overturned without treating abortion-vulnerable women as criminals."
The group threw its support behind the revised version of the bill, taking language from a proposal put forward by Democratic state Sen. Katrina Jackson, which has already been approved in the Senate.
Under the latest iteration of the bill, providers could face between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000 for performing abortions on someone before the 15-week mark. Abortions performed later in pregnancy bring even more severe penalties — up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $20,000 to $200,000.
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Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, an ardent supporter of anti-abortion legislation, called the original bill too “radical” to get his support and signaled he would veto it if it made it through the legislature in its original form.
“To suggest that a woman would be jailed for an abortion is simply absurd,” Edwards said. “This legislation is radical, and it goes far beyond simply being pro-life. I do not normally comment on these types of bills before they’ve made it through the legislative process, but I felt I had to join my voice to the chorus of pro-life organizations against HB 813.”