National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

La. gov. signs bill targeting funding for abortion providers; state Senate passes abortion ban

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Thursday signed into law a bill (HB 606) that would prevent abortion providers from receiving public funding, AP/ABC News reports (Deslatte, AP/ABC News, 6/2).

Background

Former Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration ordered the state to strip Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana of Medicaid funding following the release of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. Multiple state investigations have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.

A federal judge blocked Louisiana's effort and ordered the state to continue funding cancer screenings, gynecology exams and other health services at Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. Several other states that also have tried to end funding for abortion providers are facing similar legal challenges.

Separately, the Obama administration last month issued a nationwide warning to states that efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law.

Law details

The Louisiana defunding law, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R), bans public funding for any organization in the state that provides abortion care. It includes exceptions for cases of rape, incest, life endangerment or "medically futile" pregnancies.

Existing state law already prohibits the use of public funding for most abortion care. The bill would end abortion providers' funding for other services they offer, such as cancer screenings, contraception and wellness exams.

The state has two independent clinics that offer abortion care. Currently, Planned Parenthood's Louisiana affiliates do not provide abortion care in the state. However, the organization has shown interest in offering such services at a new clinic being built in New Orleans.

Abortion-rights supporters have raised concerns that the law will limit access to care for low-income Louisiana residents. In addition, some have noted that the law could face a legal challenge, which would strain already limited state resources (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/24).

La. Senate advances bill banning abortion based on fetal anomalies

In related news, the Louisiana Senate on Thursday voted 29-6 to approve a bill (HB 1019) that would ban abortion care sought because of a fetal anomaly or disability diagnosis.

The bill returns to the state House to consider changes made in the Senate (AP/ABC News, 6/2).

Background

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Rick Edmonds (R), includes a limited exception in instances when the fetus "has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth."

Last month, the bill stalled in the state Senate health care committee after lawmakers opted not to vote on the measure over concerns that it might be struck down as unconstitutional. Committee members said the language could violate court precedent recognizing a woman's right to abortion and voiced concerns about how the bill defined a genetic anomaly.

At the time, Edmonds said he would try to rework the language and re-submit it for committee consideration (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/19).

Latest developments

The state Senate on Thursday approved the bill after adding another exception for cases in which an abortion is performed to save the life of a pregnant woman.

A physician who violates the measure could be penalized with up to two years imprisonment, malpractice claims and legal challenges for wrongful death. According to AP/ABC News, the measure would not penalize a woman who obtains such abortion care.

During the vote Thursday, the state Senate in an 18-18 vote rejected an amendment, proposed by state Sen. Dan Claitor (R), that would have changed the bill to provide information to pregnant women about services that are available for infants with disabilities, rather than ban abortion in such cases.

Claitor, who opposes abortion rights, said he proposed the amendment because HB 1019, as written, is "patently unconstitutional."

Comments

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D) criticized the bill, noting that the ban would violate the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. "There have been attempts at every angle to cut away at the right," she said, adding, "You all want to ignore federal law."

Further, citing the problems with the state's budget, Peterson also voiced concerns about the cost of potential litigation challenging the measure if were to become law. "We don't have extra money ... to spend on legal fees," she said (AP/ABC News, 6/2).