Louisiana moves to outlaw abortion entirely

Yeah, you read that right. Last Tuesday, the Louisiana Health and Welfare Committee passed, with a 10-2 vote, a bill that would make abortion provision illegal, with exceptions to save the life of the woman, but no exception if the woman was pregnant as the result of rape or incest. HB 645 (formerly known as HB 587), would send doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to prison for up to 15 years.

The Times-Picayune reports:

The bill would make it a crime to provide an abortion or prescribe drugs with the intent of ending a pregnancy. There would be exceptions for medically necessary abortions, as certified by a physician, but not for cases of rape or incest. The measure also would bar the Louisiana Medicaid program from covering any abortion, also with no exception for cases of rape or incest, a move that state health officials said could threaten about $5 billion in federal Medicaid financing.

This bill is a “personhood” bill; it would redefine human life as beginning at fertilization and grant the fetus constitutional rights from that moment. It has the support of Personhood USA – in this video, if you can hold back the vomit, you can see a representative of that organization say that banning abortion for rape survivors is the compassionate thing to do. “If you really care about a rape victim,” she told the hearing last week, “you would want to protect her from abortion, not the baby. A baby is not the worst thing that could ever happen to a rape victim. An abortion is.”

It was put forward by a Congressman by the name of John LaBruzzo. It is also, oh, what’s the word, unconstitutional. It is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and it is designed to provoke a lawsuit that will inevitably go all the way to the Supreme Court, which, given its current make-up, could very well overturn Roe. It’s an impossible double-bind for pro-choicers: do you let this bill stand and see abortion effectively banned in the state of Louisiana (and in the other states that, emboldened and provided with precedent, would inevitably follow suit), or do you challenge it and risk seeing abortion officially banned in all fifty states?

The bill, called the Human Life Protection Act – unless you are living the human life of a pregnant rape survivor, in which case, fuck you! – will be debated on the House floor on Monday afternoon. For more information, check out Say No to HB 645.

You can watch videos from the Health and Welfare hearing here, and hear Rachel Maddow explain how the Louisiana bill fits into a larger trend of “personhood” bills being put forward around the country here.

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Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

    Apparently Lousiana women do not want doctors to have the right to perform abortions. If they change their mind, they can always vote somebody in, who thinks different.

    • http://feministing.com/members/chataya/ Brianne Jones

      But that is not how it works. Federal law trumps state law, and federal law states that abortions in the first trimester are legal in all situations. They do not have the right to pass this law, even if the majority in Louisiana want it passed.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mismarie/ Misty

      I have the misfortune of being a woman and living in Louisiana. I just wanted to say that…this is untrue. There are plenty of women in Louisiana who believe in the right to choose. We stood up. We told our stories. We were there and we said, “Think about this. Don’t DO THIS.” And we were not listened to.

      It feels kind of wrong to blame Louisiana women as a whole for this. We are the ones who are going to suffer for it, either through loss of healthcare availability or through funding while the state finances a Supreme Court challenge.

    • http://feministing.com/members/metalteapot/ K

      That assumes that the majority of votes in the last state election were allocated based entirely on opinions on abortion, and that men weren’t allowed to vote. Any fair election will say nothing on what the majority of women believe because roughly 50% of the voting population will be men.

      Similarly your argument suggests that if the majority vote to oppress the minority, the minority should simply accept this as democratic and not complain about the violation of their rights. That is why the federal law, and the constitution exist, to prevent the majority from repressing the minority while acting in their own interests.

      The only way to fairly determine what the electorate think about this issue would be through a referendum. This is especially true when the majority of votes for a party will be determined for major issues like economic policy. However even then, I think it should be debatable how much power an electorate should have to remove rights from other people. If a woman in Louisiana doesn’t want an abortion she doesn’t have to have one. This isn’t about what women want, this is about what people (both men and women) want to let women do. If women in Louisiana really didn’t want abortions you wouldn’t have to make it illegal because nobody would be having them!

  • originalitysdead
  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    Oh good lord. What a disaster. Speaking of disasters, is the entire state of LA so recovered from the hurricanes ‘n’ floods that it’s ready to blow millions defending this unconstitutional law in court? All the post-born persons in the state must he healthy, well-fed, sheltered, etc, yes?


  • http://feministing.com/members/melissalynnette/ Melissa Lynnette

    “A baby is not the worst thing that could ever happen to a rape victim. An abortion is.”

    There’s something so wrong about this statement that my brain can’t even process what it is. It just rejected it completely and left it at that.

    • http://feministing.com/members/scarletttaylor/ Scarlett

      No, it makes perfect sense. A rape victim has experience not having control over her body and someone not respecting her choices, so inflicting that on her again is totally okay.

      I could vomit. Really.

      • davenj

        In a twisted way it does make sense. I never understood the ideology of folks who think abortion is murder, but make exceptions for rape or incest. If you truly believe that it’s murder then you can’t condone it under any circumstances, except possibly the “double effect” principle.

        As is, I think it shows the dangerousness of being anti-choice, but at least it’s logical.

        • http://feministing.com/members/melissalynnette/ Melissa Lynnette

          No, I agree. If you think abortion is murder, then think it’s murder no matter what. But it’s still an extremely distasteful thing to say, out loud, where others can hear you.

  • http://feministing.com/members/jgarst/ Jennifer

    What I want to know is: when these bills that make exceptions for the life of the mother are introduced, how do they intend to determine when the mother’s life is really at stake or when she’s just faking it to get an abortion? Is this going to create a situation in which someone with a legitimate life or death need to end a pregnancy would have to deal with red tape in order to prove they really are in medical danger in order get the procedure done? Would her chances of dying have to be above 99% for them to allow it, or would they frown upon abortion where there is only a small chance of death but a significant chance of medical risk?

    I ask this because I had an abortion a few years ago due to an ectopic pregnancy. A lot of people don’t want to call the procedure I had (a dose of methotrexate) an abortion, but that’s what it is and that’s what I insist on calling it. I don’t know where (or if) this procedure fits into the abortion statistics, but it makes me want to vomit to think that I might have been prohibited that procedure and forced to wait until I lost a fallopian tube (painfully) for an embryo that had no chance of living. I imagine this is a fairly common procedure, though, and I imagine even some “pro-life” people would have made the choice I did in the same situation, only they wouldn’t insist, as I do, on calling it what it is: an abortion. Because then they’d have to admit they were “murderers.”

    • http://feministing.com/members/angrierthanyou/ Nina

      I accidentally hit “report” when I tried to hit reply, so I hope they ignore that. Anyway.

      If we’re talking about fertilized eggs having personhood, yep, that’s abortion and therefore murder. Ectopic, unviable, deformed, dead, lungless, it has rights to stay right where it is until you die apparently. I will never stop being angry about how life is only important to these organizations until it starts breathing on its own.

  • http://feministing.com/members/scarletttaylor/ Scarlett

    I don’t understand how this is constitutional, even after Casey.

    • http://feministing.com/members/hellotwin/ Ami

      As noted in the post, it’s not constitutional, but it could serve as a good excuse for the Supreme Court to throw out Roe, if it gets that far.

  • http://feministing.com/members/alilrusty/ Amanda

    It says pending House final passage right now…


    There are SO many problems with this…not just the fact that it outlaws abortion and is unconstitutional, but with defining when life begins, in terms of LA law. .

    Right now LA law says that natural personality (when you’re alive/have rights/can inherit/etc.) is when you’re “born alive.” But for the purposes of the person’s interests (which include determinations of inheritance, presumptions of paternity, retroactive ownership, etc.), an unborn child is considered a natural person from the moment of conception (so for example, you can retroactively inherit from the moment of your conception, as long as you are born alive). But LA law conflicts over when the “moment of conception” is – is 1) fertilization, or is it 2) implantation? There is a LA Civil Code article that says conception is fertilization (26, cmt b). But there is another civil code article (1474) that says in order to inherit, an ovum has to be implanted at the time of the donation (for a donation inter vivos) or implanted at the time of the donator’s death (for a donation mortis causa, one made in a will). But there is a revised statue (9:123) that says an in vitro fertilized (IVF) ovum is a “juridical person” until it’s implanted in the womb. A juridical person is a corporation or an LLC – an organization that we attribute legal personality to b/c juridical persons can own property, etc., but they’re not “natural persons” like humans. The Legislature called IVF ovums “juridical persons” to keep them from being considered “things,” but 1) logically that doesn’t make sense; and 2) it conflicts with the Civil Code articles.

    This new law, HB 645, fudges all of that up even more b/c it has other definitions for fertilization and conception. I didn’t see anything in the text of bill about IVF ovums, or exceptions for people who freeze sperm or eggs so if one parent dies, they can later make a baby. The last thing we need is another law that conflicts further.

    This bill is completely unconstitutional and I hope the LA Senate is at least competent enough to recognize that.

  • http://feministing.com/members/emfem/ Emily Hallgren

    Does anyone know of any protests scheduled against this bill??

    Scarlett- my thoughts exactly. Yes, let’s tell a rape survivor what she can and cannot (or really, just cannot) do with her body. It’s not like that’s been done to her already.

  • http://feministing.com/members/karac/ Kara Connor

    This is yet another attack on womens rights over their own bodies. Women are being treated like children, unable to make their own choice or use their own moral compass. In addition, if this disgraceful bill passes, then it will provide an opportunity for a challenge to Roe vs. Wade in the supreme court. Quite a clever move on the part of the misogynous anti-choice crowd.

  • http://feministing.com/members/chardonnaysocialist/ chardonnaysocialist

    Roe is already dead for all practical purposes if we do not use it due to the fear of losing it. Repeal of Roe would lead to the situation in which states are allowed to deprive women of the reproductive freedom – which would already come into effect, if we do not challenge these state laws on the basis of Roe. However frightening the prospect of losing Roe is, I think the present state of gradual erosion is even worse, because many pro-choice people have not yet realized the seriousness of the situation.

    (Roe’s repeal does not automatically lead to “abortion officially banned in all fifty states” – it is not a federal anti-choice statute. 20 states or so have fairly pro-choice legislation now; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/06/the-day-after-roe/4882/ is a good guide for what could happen if Roe is killed.)