A proposed constitutional amendment regarding abortion cleared its first hurdle in the House Civil Law committee last week.
Representative Katrina Jackson’s (D-Monroe) proposal seeks to put clear language in the Louisiana Constitution saying the state does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion.
"This bill will finally give the people of Louisiana an opportunity to say that we are against the shedding of innocent blood in Louisiana," Representative Jackson told members of the committee.
Dorinda Bordlee, a pro-life attorney with the Bioethics Defense Fund, says the amendment is aimed at making it clear to judges that the Louisiana Constitution prohibits abortion, should a law regarding the procedure go in front of a state court.
"This gives the judiciary something to interpret very clearly, where they can’t find through some provision or another, a right to abortion," explained Bordlee.
The bill needs to pass two-thirds of the Legislature to get on the October ballot, where it would require a simple majority to amend the Constitution.
But still, it’d take a reversal of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court to actually take effect. At that point, states would be responsible for determining their own rules regarding abortion.
Jackson’s proposal doesn’t include whether or not abortion would be allowed in the case of rape or incest, "but at any point that Roe v. Wade is overturned, then the Louisiana Legislature will have the opportunity to bring a bill to determine whether or not there are exceptions," she explained to committee members.
The 1970’s decision legalizing abortion could face a test if the Supreme Court decides to consider another Louisiana law also authored by Jackson that would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Court temporarily blocked that law from taking effect while a Louisiana abortion clinic filed an appeal, submitted last week.
The measure has the support of Governor John Bel Edwards, though a constitutional amendment doesn't require the governor's signature.
Critics say Louisiana already has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the nation, making it increasingly difficult for women to access the procedure.
“People in Louisiana suffer when restrictions like these are passed. Women are suffering now, and so too are the children born into families that couldn’t support them," said Steffani Bangel with the New Orleans Abortion Fund.
The bill cleared committee with no objections and is scheduled for the House floor this week.