La. Committees Advance Abortion Restrictions, Ask Congress To Defund Planned Parenthood

May 18, 2012 — Committees in the Louisiana Senate and House on Wednesday approved various bills that would increase restrictions on abortion care and oppose funding of Planned Parenthood, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports (Ballard/Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/18).

A House committee advanced a bill (SB 708) to the full House stating that prior to abortion care, "the heartbeat of the unborn child, if present, will be made audible unless [women] request and sign an opt-out form," the AP/ Lafayette Advertiser reports.

Bill sponsor Sen. Sharon Weston Broome (D) said the measure would update a law she sponsored last year that requires women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion (AP/Lafayette Advertiser, 5/17). The legislation also would extend the waiting period between the examination and the abortion procedure from two hours to 24 hours, according to the Advocate.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee advanced two other measures targeting women's health care. One bill (SB 593) would ban abortion care beginning at 20 weeks after fertilization -- the equivalent of 22 weeks of gestation -- which the legislation states is when a fetus is able to feel pain. The bill, which now goes to the full Senate, includes exceptions for "medically futile" pregnancies and when the life or health of the woman is at risk.

The Senate committee also approved a measure (HCR 11) that would ask Congress to bar funding to Planned Parenthood. The legislation, which goes to the full Senate, calls on Congress to end funding that supports family planning services and other women's health care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

"Today, legislators ignored the health-care needs of Louisiana women," Julie Mickelberry, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said, adding, "They passed bills out of committee that threaten women's health and restrict their doctor's ability to provide them with the care they need" (Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/17).