White House weighs in on criminal penalties in Louisiana abortion law

By: - June 6, 2022 12:02 pm
White House

The Biden administration is reminding health care providers in states that have banned abortion that their laws do not apply in the case of an emergency that threatens the life of a pregnant person. (Canva image)

The Biden Administration offered its take Monday on a bill the Louisiana Legislature approved last week that would increase the criminal consequences for abortion providers. It would take effect once, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that makes abortion legal.

“The Louisiana Legislature has taken the latest step in a growing attack against the fundamental freedoms of Americans,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement (read the full statement below).

The Louisiana House of Representatives gave final passage Thursday to Senate Bill 342, sponsored by Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe. An existing statute allows for prison terms of one to five years and fines of $5,000 to $50,000 for abortion providers. Jackson’s bill increases the penalties to one to 10 years of prison time and fines of $10,000 to $100,000.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said at a press conference Thursday that he supports exceptions for rape and incest. He has not yet said whether he would veto Jackson’s bill, although he has previously supported bills without the exceptions.

“Vetoing the bill wouldn’t accomplish what I would like to have, which is the exceptions for rape and incest,” Edwards said.


The bill was amended significantly on the House floor. Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, who carried the bill, sponsored 15 pages of amendments to the five-page bill.

Included in the amendments that passed were exceptions to the criminal penalties for abortion providers in circumstances involving the life or health of the mother or if the fetus had a condition not compatible with life.

While Jackson’s bill would not criminalize those who undergo abortions, abortion rights advocates point out that women who end their pregnancies could potentially be penalized under other existing abortion statutes.

Louisiana’s criminal code defines “person” as “a human being from the moment of fertilization and implantation.” This definition could potentially allow for prosecution of anybody who ends a pregnancy, not just abortion providers.

Full statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre:

“The Louisiana Legislature has taken the latest step in a growing attack against the fundamental freedoms of Americans. Louisiana’s extreme bill will criminalize abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest and punish reproductive healthcare professionals with up to 10 years in prison. The President is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of Americans afforded by Roe for nearly 50 years, and ensuring that women can make their own choices about their lives, bodies, and families. An overwhelming majority of the American people agree and reject these kinds of radical measures.”

Piper Hutchinson contributed to this story.


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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.