NEW ORLEANS - The state senate has overwhelmingly passed a controversial bill that opponents say could freeze abortions in much of the state.
House Bill 388, which has been deemed the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” is similar to a controversial new Texas law that supporters say has already shuttered some abortion clinics in that state. The law was challenged in the courts, and upheld.
Pro life groups say the legislation in Louisiana make abortions safer, bringing them up to par with safety standards for other surgical procedures.
“Abortion harms women, it is not health care, and so this is a bill that brings Louisiana into the light as having the highest standards of health care as all other medical facilities across the state,” said Dorinda Bordlee, chief counsel at the Bioethics Defense Fund, a pro-life law firm.
Pro choice groups argue that the legislation actually sets higher standards for abortions than other outpatient surgeries, and harms women’s health.
“The result of this will inevitably lead to a return to the dark old days of people self-inducing or back alley unqualified, unsterilized conditions and people will die,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
One of the most controversial parts of the bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic, meaning a doctor must be approved to use a hospital's facilities if their patient has an emergency.
“What this bill is it would close that abortion special interest loophole by requiring abortion physicians to have the same credentials as every other physician practicing in ambulatory surgical centers throughout this state,” said Bordlee.
“There are outpatient procedures performed every day in doctor’s offices without the requirement of hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles. Foot surgery, hand surgery, eye surgery,” said Esman.
Opponents say three of the state's five abortion clinics don't have admitting privileges right now, and if this legislation passes, the clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be in danger of shutting down.
“It's not about improving health care, you don't improve health care by making it harder to obtain,” said Esman.
“If those doctors are truly are physicians and not butchers, they would be able to get credentials,” said Bordlee.
But opponents say it's not that easy. They say hospitals may take political and business considerations into account as well when considering whether to grant admitting privileges.
The House passed the bill 85 to 6 in March. Now, the amended bill will return to the House floor for approval. Then, the bill will head to the governor’s desk. Governor Bobby Jindal has publicly supported the legislation.
If it passes, the legislation will go into effect September 1st.