A state Senate panel Wednesday morning advanced legislation that would generally outlaw abortions after 20 weeks post fertilization.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee without objection approved a substitute version of Senate Bill 593 and shipped it to the Senate floor for debate. The legislation will get a new bill number because it was so substantially rewritten.
The legislation, sponsored by Senate President John Alario, is called the “Viable and Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
“This bill is trying its best to protect the unborn. Pain can be inflicted on those of 20 weeks. This bill seeks to give them that extra protection,” said Alario, R-Westwego.
As explained, the Senate committee version would ban abortions 20 weeks post fertilization which is 22 weeks gestational age. There would be exceptions in instances where it would be “medically futile” because the life is unsustainable outside the womb and when the life and health of the mother would be jeopardy.
The rewrite also includes a “legislative intent” section that sets out legal principles behind the proposal.
“I believe this is constitutional,” said law school professor Teresa Collett, with St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minn., and a national expert in the area of abortion litigation. Collett said six states have adopted similar laws and there has yet to be a constitutional challenge brought.
Collett said Louisiana has a larger number of abortions at or after 21 weeks than the national average. Nationally, the percentage is 1.3 percent of all abortions while Louisiana in recent years has been 3.8 percent to 1.8 percent.
Dr. Anita Showalter, an assistant dean with Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima, Wash., said the legislation would not take away a woman’s right to an abortion just require decisions to be made earlier. She said the legislation puts the state on record “in favor of life and against inflicting pain.”
Opposition came from Dr. Deborah Taylor, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who argued that the legislation could pose problems for physicians and their patients.
“My concern is the way this bill is written if we find an anamaly not compatible with life – a kidney problem, a brain problem – it obligates this woman … You are tying the hands of the patient and physician to make those very difficult decisions,” Taylor said.