More Murder Charges for Women in Louisiana Abortion Bill | National/World News
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The sponsor of a bill that would have subjected Louisiana women to murder charges for having abortions abruptly withdrew the proposal from debate Thursday night after House members voted 65 to 26 to completely overhaul the legislation, eliminating criminal penalties.
The controversial bill would have gone further against abortion than the efforts of lawmakers in any other state. This would have made women who terminate their pregnancies liable to criminal prosecution for homicide.
“It’s a tricky political question, but we all know it’s actually very simple. Abortion is murder,” proclaimed McCormick, a Republican from Oil City, opening the debate. He noted that a majority of Louisiana lawmakers in the heavily Republican legislature say they are anti-abortion, and briefly chided abortion opponents who also oppose his bill. “We hesitate and try to explain it.”
But McCormick’s measure had drawn growing opposition from many anti-abortion stalwarts. Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat, said he would veto it. Louisiana Right to Life, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Right to Life Committee were among the major anti-abortion opponents of the measure.
Edwards, a devout Catholic, said it was “absurd” to prosecute women for abortions.
McCormick disagreed equally strongly, saying a woman who has an abortion should be in the same legal position as a woman who takes the life of a child after birth. “When I give equal protection to the unborn child, that is the possibility,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
Proponents of the bill were adamant. Dozens of them gathered at the Capitol to pray and show their support. As the group watched from the balcony of the house as the bill was removed, one of them shouted “Shame.”
The House had yet to begin debating the controversial legislation when the building was temporarily evacuated Thursday after the president interrupted proceedings and said an unknown, unclaimed package had been found in the Capitol’s Memorial Hall. – a gathering area between the Chamber and the chambers of the Senate.
It came on a day when legislation was already moving slowly as lawmakers tried to find a compromise on McCormick’s bill. The House sat for more than an hour as lawmakers broke into groups behind closed doors to discuss the legislation.
Pending at the time was Rep. Alan Seabaugh’s amendment. The Shreveport Republican is a staunch anti-abortionist. But his amendment revised McCormick’s bill, declaring that women would not face criminal penalties for abortion. It also authorized abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. And he eliminated language from McCormick’s original bill that seemed to make contraceptive drugs and at least some aspects of in vitro fertilization illegal.
The amendment also removed language from McCormick’s bill widely seen as patently unconstitutional — a statement that any federal law, regulation, or court order authorizing abortion is void and that any judge who blocks enforcement of the provisions of the bill could be impeached.
“We cannot grant ourselves the power to order a court to declare future acts unconstitutional,” Seabaugh argued.
The amendment reflects a pending Senate bill to strengthen Louisiana abortion laws that would go into effect if Roe v. Wade was canceled. McCormick, as sponsor, is unlikely to advance it to the House, but the Senate version may still advance.
McCormick’s bill, introduced in March, had come under scrutiny in light of the leak last week of a draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court stating that the High Court was preparing to overturn decisions confirming a constitutional right to abortion.
There is no indication yet that lawmakers in other states are passing similar legislation. In Idaho, Republican state Rep. Heather Scott has offered to prosecute women who have abortions, but a committee chairman said Friday he would not allow it. “There are still reasonable people in the Legislature who are going to make sure extreme bills like this don’t get heard,” Rep. Brent Crane said.
Louisiana already has laws in place criminalizing abortion, including a ‘trigger law’ guaranteeing it will be a crime if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision establishing the right to abortion . The statutes appear to exempt women from prosecution, although some abortion rights advocates have suggested they need to be tightened.
McCormick said existing laws are insufficient to give fetuses equal protection under the law.
Associated Press writer Holly Ramer contributed to this report from Concord, New Hampshire.
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