Protestors gather Tuesday, May 3, 2022, outside the U.S. Supreme Court after a ruling on Mississippi’s abortion law was leaked, indicating justices would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. (Jane Norman/States Newsroom)
Louisiana’s leading antiabortion advocacy group won’t support a high-profile bill that could expose pregnant people who seek or undergo abortions to criminal prosecution and prison.
“Our long-standing policy is that abortion-vulnerable women should not be treated as criminals,” Louisiana Right to Life said in a written statement released Friday night. “Instead, we should hold accountable the individuals performing the abortion or selling or providing the chemical abortion drugs.”
House Bill 813, introduced by Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, would classify an abortion as a homicide, opening the door to an abortion seeker being charged with a crime that currently carries a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Critics said the bill could also make it illegal to use certain kinds of emergency contraception and fertility treatments.
Such proposals have typically been viewed as extreme in the national fight over abortion access. Many of the country’s largest antiabortion organizations have, for years, shied away from endorsing legislation that would punish people who have sought or undergone an abortion.
Nevertheless, Louisiana’s House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice voted 7-2 for McCormick’s legislation Wednesday, drawing national attention. The vote came two days after the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that indicates justices may allow states to enact local abortion bans later this year.
If the Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which ensures abortion access across the country, nearly all abortion in Louisiana would be banned immediately under a state law passed in 2006.
Louisiana Right to Life is also pushing Senate Bill 342 by Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, which could make it easier to enforce criminal penalties on abortion providers should Roe be overturned, the group’s executive director Ben Clapper said.
Under Jackson’s legislation, individuals and entities could face between one and 10 years in prison and a $10,000 to $100,000 fine for performing abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. Beyond 15 weeks, abortion providers would face one to 15 years in prison and a $20,000 to $200,000 fine. The Senate has already approved the bill, and it is awaiting a hearing in the House.
Jackson’s bill explicitly states that fines and prison sentences could not be levied against a person who undergoes or seeks an abortion. They also do not apply to medical providers who give out emergency contraception, according to the legislation.
Jackson, one of Louisiana staunchest anti-abortion lawmakers, said she is opposed to McCormick’s bill, which hasn’t come before the full House or Senate yet.
“My main issue is that I’m never going to stand for criminalizing those women who find themselves in bad situations,” she said. “I have never been an advocate for that.”
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