Abortion would be punishable as murder under new Louisiana proposal

By: - May 4, 2022 7:06 pm
microscopic view of in-vitro fertilization

In vitro fertilization is among the procedures that would have become a punishable crime, according to opponents of the original version of House Bill 813. Its author, Rep. Danny McCormick, wants to treat abortion the same as the crime of murder. (Canva image)

Less than 48 hours after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling was leaked, indicating the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade would be overturned, Louisiana lawmakers acted aggressively to bolster state law that bans the procedure.  

The House Committee for the Administration of Criminal Justice advanced a bill Wednesday that would treat anyone who undergoes or administers an abortion as a murderer. The potential penalty for someone convicted could be life in prison. 

Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, authored House Bill 813 that would also allow the state attorney general prosecute abortion cases that a local district attorney refuses. He told the committee Louisiana and other states had already violated federal law by approving medical marijuana, and any constitutional concerns about his proposal should be considered similarly.

“If more than 15 states can defy the federal government over marijuana, we can do it to save the lives of innocent babies,” McCormick said, adding Louisiana should not wait until the Supreme Court’s ruling is made official.

Supreme Court officials have confirmed the content of the draft opinion first obtained by Politico, adding that it could be altered before it’s certified later year. In reversing the Roe decision, states would then be empowered to enforce their own laws concerning abortion. Louisiana is among the states with a trigger law that bans abortions as soon as the Supreme Court ruling is final. Other states are considering similar proposals.

Backers of McCormick’s bill who testified before the committee referred to various Bible verses to back their stance. They included Susan Raborn, a Baton Rouge lawyer who acknowledged she had separately aborted twins and a single fetus she had carried. She said abortion rights supporters have confronted her about her past as a member of LSU’s Golden Girls and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, saying those opportunities and her subsequent legal career would not have been possible without having had abortion as an option.

Raborn, 61, spoke of her continuing guilt over ending her pregnancies, and she described abortion rights supporters as racists. 

“They really want to kill minority babies. They love to kill minority babies …” she said. “They’re really the KKK of today.”

Statistics the Kaiser Family Foundation compiled show Black people accounted for 38% of abortions in 2019, compared with 33% for whites and 21% for Hispanics. Louisiana was among 21 states that did not report abortion data by race or ethnicity, according to KFF. A closer look at Southern states shows Black people obtained a far larger share of abortions in Alabama and Georgia, while white people vastly outnumbered other races in Kentucky.

Research has connected racial disparities in abortion to other fundamental inequalities: lack of access to health care and contraception, subpar public education and low income.

Opponents of House Bill 813 included lawyers who said language in the proposal would make procedures such as in-vitro fertilization and the freezing of embryos punishable crimes. Birth control pills, intrauterine devices and emergency contraception would also be outlawed, based on their interpretation of the bill. 

Melissa Flournoy, a former state lawmaker and board chair of Louisiana Progress, said McCormick’s measure could have unintended consequences, including the “criminalization of miscarriages.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat with staunch anti-abortion views, would not offer personal comment Wednesday when asked about the leaked Supreme Court ruling.  He did confirm that such a law would prompt Louisiana’s 2006 trigger law into effect.

Committee member Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, expressed concerns about whether McCormick’s bill would be constitutional but voted in favor of it anyway. He was joined by Reps. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux; Ray Garafalo, R-Chalmette; Jonathan Goudeau, R-Lafayette; Nick Muscarello, R-Hammond; Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; and McCormick.

The no votes on the committee came from chairman Joe Marino, an independent from Gretna, and Rep. Vanessa LaFleur, D-Baton Rouge.

Absent for the vote were Reps. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia; Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs; Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge; Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville; and Debbie Villio, R-Kenner.

Julie O’Donoghue contributed to this report.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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