LAFAYETTE, La. — A Louisiana legislative committee on Wednesday advanced a bill to make abortion a crime of homicide in which the mother or those assisting her in terminating the pregnancy can be charged.
But while the measure cleared the House Appropriations Committee on a 7-2 vote, at least one of the representatives voting in favor acknowledged the bill is unconstitutional.
State Rep. Danny McCormick said his House Bill 813 should move forward even though the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guarantees abortion rights as soon as June, according to an opinion leaked from the high court this week.
“We can’t wait on the Supreme Court,” said McCormick, a Republican from Oil City.
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Louisiana already has a “trigger law” criminalizing abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned, which would subject doctors or others who perform abortions to up to 10 years in prison. But the law does not call for prosecution of the pregnant woman.
McCormick’s bill, which would amend homicide statutes, has no exception and abortion rights attorneys said it would subject women to prosecution.
“This is saying that people can be charged with murder for any act that they take against their own pregnancy,” said reproductive rights lawyer Ellie Schilling.
McCormick said the Rev. Brian Gunter of First Baptist Church in Livingston helped author the bill.
“No compromises; no more waiting,” Gunter said. “The bloodshed in our land is so great we have a duty … to protect the least of these among us.”
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Bradley Pierce of the Foundation to Abolish Abortion said state legislatures have the right to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court if they disagree with any high court decision.
“If the Supreme Court ignores the (U.S.) Constitution, you should ignore the court,” Pierce said. “The Legislature has the right to disregard the Supreme Court.”
Opponents argued the bill would not only put the mother and doctor at risk of murder prosecution, but criminalize in vitro fertilization and perhaps some forms of birth control.
Ellie Schilling, an abortion rights attorney, said the bill would “annihilate” the Constitution.
Republican state Rep. Tony Bacala voted for the bill even though he agreed it “won’t pass (constitutional) muster.”
Bacala said he would vote for the bill but also said the bill is likely to be struck down by courts if made law, given its unconstitutionality while Roe v. Wade is law.
“While I intend to vote for this bill, I would suggest that there may be better options that can actually go into practice instead of concepts that I feel like are probably going to be struck down. ”
The measure now goes to the full House for debate.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.
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