May 9, 2014 — A Louisiana Senate committee on Wednesday approved a measure (HB 388) that would require physicians who provide abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their offices, the Shreveport Times reports (Hasten, Shreveport Times, 5/7).
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D), also would create a database that would contain anonymous statistics on the number of abortions performed in the state.
The measure also would require physicians who provide abortions only occasionally to acquire a license from the state if they perform more than five abortions annually, up from more than five monthly under current rules. The doctors' names, locations and status as an abortion provider would be public information.
Further, the bill would extend the state's restrictions on surgical abortions to apply to medication abortions. For example, women seeking medication abortions would face a mandatory delay of 24 hours after requesting the drugs. Medication abortions also would have to be reported to the state Department of Health and Hospitals under the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/2).
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved the bill after adding an amendment that would impose a monetary fine, rather than a criminal sentence, on physicians found in violation of the law.
The bill now proceeds to the full state Senate. If approved, it will return to the state House for concurrence on the amendment (Shreveport Times, 5/7).
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has voiced support for the bill, suggesting that it will become law if it passes the state Legislature. If so, it could take effect Sept. 1 (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/8).
During debate, Jackson argued that the bill is intended to protect the health and safety of women. "If you're going to perform an abortion in the state of Louisiana, you're going to do it in a safe atmosphere," she said.
Meanwhile, opponents argued that the bill would be particularly burdensome to women in rural parts of the state if nearby abortion clinics had to close because their doctors could not obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. The bill would force three of the state's five abortion clinics to close, according to opponents of the measure (Shreveport Times, 5/7).
Ellie Shilling, an attorney in New Orleans who advises abortion clinics, said the bill would hold abortion providers "to entirely different standards than other doctors." According to Shilling, the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners only requires admitting privileges for physicians who perform procedures that require deep sedation, which abortions do not (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/8).