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La. Legislature Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban, Fetal Heartbeat Bill, Debates Midwife Standards

La. Legislature Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban, Fetal Heartbeat Bill, Debates Midwife Standards

June 4, 2012 — The Louisiana Legislature last week advanced two bills that would increase restrictions on abortion, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/1).

On Friday, the House unanimously approved a bill (SB 766) that would prohibit abortion beyond 20 weeks after fertilization (Finn, Reuters/Columbus Republic, 6/1). The bill includes exceptions to protect the woman's life and when a pregnancy is considered "medically futile" because the infant will not survive after birth. The bill also includes a very narrow health exception (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/1).

The legislation, introduced by Senate President John Alario (R), is based on the disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Physicians convicted of violating the bill's provisions could face fines and up to two years in prison.

Because of a minor technical amendment, the bill must return to the Senate, where lawmakers previously gave it unanimous approval. A final vote is expected in the next few days, according to Reuters/Columbus Republic (Reuters/Columbus Republic, 6/1).

Ultrasound, Fetal Heartbeat Bill Goes to Gov. Jindal

The Louisiana Senate on Thursday voted 33-3 to pass a bill (SB 708) that would expand the time period for the state's ultrasound requirement from two hours to 24 hours before an abortion, the AP/WWLTV reports.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome (D), also would require physicians to ask women seeking abortion care to listen to the fetal heartbeat. Louisiana already requires physicians to ask women if they want to view the ultrasound image and receive a photo of it. Under the bill, women could opt out of hearing the heartbeat by signing a form.

The measure now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who has indicated that he supports it (AP/WWLTV, 5/31).

Midwife Amendment Triggers Senate Debate

The Senate on Thursday also voted to reject an amendment (HFA 4910) on licensing for midwives that was offered as part of a bill (SB 320) on health care providers, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Landry (R), would have required midwives to be certified by the North American Registry of Midwives.

Sen. Danny Martiny (R), the sponsor of SB 320, accused Landry of hijacking the measure by trying to insert higher licensing standards for midwives. The bill now goes to a conference committee (Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/1).