Sick of hearing about all the various bills states are passing or trying to pass to restrict women's reproductive rights? Me too.
Unfortunately, the powers-that-be in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama and other states aren't sick of it. On the contrary, they just won't stop doing what they can to shutter abortion clinics and put lives at risk. They are determined to make it ever more difficult for women who don't have a lot of money to obtain what the highest Court in the land has said for 41 years is their constitutional right. (And as some of these forced-birthers have made clear over the past few years, given half a chance they'll make effective birth control hard to get, too.)
And it's not just Republicans who are backing these draconian restrictions.
One of the latest efforts is in Louisiana, where a boatload of anti-abortion bills have been working their way through the legislature. The spotlight right now is on HB 388, which would promote back-alley abortions by forcing the closure of three of the state's five clinics as a consequence of requiring their physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius that has obstetrical-gynecological services. The bill passed the Louisiana House by a vote of 85-6 at the end of March and a Senate committee last week. The full Senate was expected to debate the bill Wednesday.
A coalition of groups, including Choice Louisiana and Planned Parenthood, has been working to defeat HB 388 and several other anti-abortion bills. The strategy sounds familiar. It includes using social media and email to broadcast general information and action alerts, like this one, as well as petitions via CREDO and UltraViolet. Planned Parenthood has taken the lead in getting foes of the anti-abortion bills who have connections with state lawmakers to do in-person lobbying in Baton Rouge. And members of the coalition are making media appearances whenever and wherever possible, with Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans lawyer, doing most of this.
But one of Choice's leaders, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, concedes that the coalition has few allies in state government. In an email, the leader wrote that during a hearing on the bill before the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare last week:
[T]he committee members sat through the antichoice testimony. However, when the prochoice testimony started ALL BUT TWO of the Senators left the room. Even with extensive voter support, the Senators didn’t even bother pretending to listen!
Please read below the fold for more analysis on HB 388 and other anti-abortion bills Louisiana is considering.
The admitting privileges provision of the egregious HB 388 isn't a Louisiana invention. It's not unlike the law in Mississippi designed to close the state's last remaining abortion clinic. Only a lawsuit has kept that from happening so far.
Other states have also passed such laws or have lawmakers eager to do so. In Texas, the admitting privileges law could shut down as many as 18 of the state's remaining 24 abortion clinics. Indeed, some clinics have already closed in anticipation of the law coming into force, which it will do Sept. 1 unless blocked by the courts. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in April on behalf of the clinics.
As with all the admitting privileges restrictions on abortion clinics, the Louisiana bill is medically unnecessary. But it is even more duplicitous than others. The introducing sponsor, Democrat Katrina Jackson, has said that all Louisiana physicians that operate ambulatory surgery clinics must meet that requirement. But that's just not so.
Schilling said by email:
Hardly any physicians in Louisiana who perform outpatient surgeries are required by law to have admitting privileges—only those performing outpatient surgery
under deep sedation or general anesthesia. Therefore, the bill singles out doctors who perform abortions for disparate treatment, and it is not consistent with the other laws in our state that dictate standard of care for physicians.
The reason for this is also simple: because standard of care does not require doctors performing outpatient surgeries to have admitting privileges. The continuity of care that proponents of the bill claim that they are trying to ensure in the context of patients receiving abortions rarely exists today in any context when a patient is admitted to the hospital. Modern practice of medicine in Louisiana and throughout the United States is that the majority of patients are admitted to the hospital through hospitalists who admit and treat patients requiring hospitalization. The majority of patients are not admitted through the doctor who performed the outpatient surgery—regardless of whether the patient's outpatient physician has admitting privileges.
The bill will make matters especially tough on rural women. Many of their doctors would have a hard time getting admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Other provisions in the bill redefine a regulated abortion as one that occurs at any point after conception. Currently, doctors who perform more than five abortions a month must operate at a licensed abortion facility. HB 388 would make that a requirement if they perform more than five abortions in a year. Again, this makes it tough in rural areas.
Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the bill.
Three other bills are being considered as well:
• HB 1274: This bill, already passed unanimously by the Louisiana House, would mandate that a pregnant brain-dead woman be kept on life support until the fetus develops far enough to be viable.
• HB 1262 mandates that physicians or other qualified persons provide a pamphlet to women seeking abortions. The pamphlet cannot come from an abortion provider but it can come from someone who counsels women not to obtain abortions. It would list the "serious psychological impacts, including severe emotional distress and mental and behavioral health afflictions" that supposedly accompany abortions.
• HB 305 prohibits "Knowingly providing any materials of any kind to school personnel or any other person for viewing by or distribution to students at a public elementary or secondary school, or at a charter school that receives state funding, regardless of the topic or viewpoint of such materials, if the materials are created by or bear the identifying mark of an organization, individual, or any other entity, or of an affiliate of any such organization, individual, or entity, that performs elective abortion. ..." That's right. Even if the topic is how to cook a cherry pie, anybody affiliated with an abortion provider or using materials developed by an abortion provider cannot make a presentation of the contents at a public or charter school.
While the other bills may pass legislative and judicial muster, if that bill becomes law, Choice Louisiana is fairly certain they can overturn it on First Amendment grounds.