The Louisiana Legislature has passed a bill from 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 34-3 today in the Senate. It now heads back to the House. It has the 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 could set a precedent for all specialized procedures. The amendment failed 3-34.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson objected to the bill, calling it a "terrible bill" that "could seriously impede a woman’s ability to something legal in the state, not withstanding your position."
"You’re reducing access to a legal surgical procedure," she told the Senate, adding that 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 it. ... If you want to stop women from getting access to this, this’ll do it. It hurts women."
The Senate voted 34-3 in favor of the bill. Sens. Peterson, Ed Murray and Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb voted against the measure. Orleans and Jefferson area Sens. John Alario, Conrad Appel, A.G. Crowe, David Heitmeir, Danny Martiny and Gary Smith voted in favor. Morrell did not vote.
Marjorie Esman, director of the 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."
The measure follows a similar bill in Texas that virtually closed a third of clinics in the state. It's among a slate of abortion-related bills this session, including Rep. Austin Badon's bill to keep pregnant women on life support.