With only a month left in Louisiana’s legislative session, abortion bills are coming up for consideration at the state capitol.
Rep. Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans) said she thinks a new law is needed to make sure women who miscarry do not end up being sued or criminally charged.
Landry discussed her legislation -- HB 266 -- during a meeting of the House Civil Law Committee on Monday (May 8).
“This is a bill that would protect women from being criminalized or sued for the results of that pregnancy,” Landry said. “That means abortion, self-managed abortion, miscarriage or even suspicion of abortion.”
Louisiana’s near-total ban on abortions kicked in when the US Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision which had legalized abortion nationwide.
“We certainly don’t want to have criminal or civil liability on someone who’s experienced the loss of a wanted pregnancy,” Landry said in presenting her bill.
Dr. Ashley Saucier joined Landry at the witness table.
“This is indistinguishable to us as providers,” the physician said. “Whether it’s a spontaneous abortion -- also known as a miscarriage -- or a medication-induced abortion, they are indistinguishable from signs and symptoms, physical exam, clinical presentation.”
Landry called the state’s abortion law confusing.
“How I know there’s confusion on this -- First of all, I weekly get questions from highly-educated women about what is legal and what is not illegal in Louisiana,” she said.
But some lawmakers argued that the current law targets abortion providers, not women who receive the procedure.
Rep. Julie Emerson (R-Carencro) asked Landry, “Can you try to explain a little bit more to me about why that doesn’t cover everything that you’re talking about criminally? I understand the civil penalties, but on the criminal side?”
Landry replied, “There’s just a lot of people who don’t quite understand this, and clarifying this and working with the hospitals and the (district attorneys) and the sheriffs would help.”
Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) said he didn’t see a need for a change in the law.
“The statute (taking effect) last year, I don’t think is confusing at all,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear that it does not apply to any criminal prosecution of any woman that has an abortion.”
Members of the pro-life organization Louisiana Right to Life spoke against the bill as well.
“We just ask that you oppose this bill, because we do believe that those issues are already covered in current law,” said Tara Wicker.
Landry said women in neighboring states are being sued.
“We’ve started to see civil suits on abortion or suspected abortion,” Landry said. “We’ve seen it in Texas recently, where a man sued the friends of a woman who helped her seek care. We’ve seen it in Alabama, also where a disgruntled ex-sued. The next step we expect is for, like I said, disgruntled exes to sue the female.
“Why this is important to bring is clarity. Like I said, there is a lot of vagueness and division and conflict in some of our laws.”
But by a 7-6 vote, the committee refused to advance Landry’s bill to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has urged state lawmakers to add exceptions for rape and incest to current state abortion law. Legislation to accomplish that awaits consideration.