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Louisiana lawmakers take up bill to make abortion a homicide crime

Members of the Louisiana House of Representatives are debating legislation that would allow prosecutors to bring murder charges against women who end a pregnancy.

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — The Republican-controlled Louisiana House of Representatives is set to debate a bill Thursday afternoon that would make women who end pregnancies subject to criminal homicide prosecution and would ban certain birth control and fertility options.

Despite much opposition – even from those who have long rallied against legalized abortion, including Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops – Republican state Representative Danny McCormick of Oil City called for a House floor debate on the legislation he authored, known as House Bill 813.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has diverged from his party with his anti-abortion stance, issued a statement in opposition to the bill Wednesday, calling it “radical” and saying he ordinarily would not comment on bills before they have made it through the legislative process but could not wait on this one.

“My Catholic Christian faith teaches me to be pro-life, which is something I’ve been honest and upfront about with the people of Louisiana, who I believe mostly agree with me,” Edwards said. "But House Bill 813 is not a pro-life bill. In addition to the fact that this legislation is patently unconstitutional, this bill would criminalize the use of certain types of contraception, as well as parts of the in vetro fertilization process, and it could even serve as a barrier to life-saving medical treatment for a woman who is suffering a miscarriage."

He added, “To suggest that a woman would be jailed for an abortion is simply absurd."

Anti-abortion group Louisiana Right to Life said in a press release that the bill is inconsistent with its mission to protect moms and babies.

"Our longstanding policy is that abortion-vulnerable women should not be treated as criminals. Instead, we should hold accountable the individuals performing the abortion or selling or providing the chemical abortion drugs," the group said. “Because HB 813 does not exempt women from criminalization and is unnecessary to protect the life of babies from abortion, Louisiana Right to Life does not support HB 813."

But McCormick says a woman who has an abortion should face the same legal recourse as a woman who is responsible for taking a child’s life after birth.

“When I give equal protection to the unborn, that’s the possibility,” McCormick told the Associated Press.

Debate on the bill, which was introduced in March, has set off further alarm for those who support abortion rights after a draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision indicating the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman’s constitutional right to abortion was leaked to the press last week.

HB 813, which considers life to start at conception, would rewrite homicide statutes to include abortion. The bill also states that any federal decisions made that are contrary to the state law would not stand, and any judge who blocks enforcement of the bill’s provisions could be impeached.

Anti-abortion legislation typically passes easily in the Louisiana Legislature but the heavy opposition from even anti-abortion groups spells trouble for McCormick's bill.

Louisiana currently has laws on the books that would automatically make abortion a crime statewide if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision in Roe that establishes abortion rights. Those statutes do not include prosecution for women getting the procedure, targeting only those who perform or aid an abortion.

 McCormick told the AP fetuses should have more protection under the law than what is currently offered.

“This is a debate we need to have in Louisiana,” he said. “There are good people on both sides of the debate."

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