NECN.com, May 16, 2012 by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two bills designed to deter pregnant women from obtaining abortions advanced Wednesday in the Louisiana Legislature, with two health committees overwhelmingly moving them forward despite criticism that the measures go too far.
Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, said her bill, which gives women the choice to listen to the fetal heartbeat before their abortions are performed, is an update of a bill she sponsored last year. That measure required that women get an ultrasound before an abortion and has helped more women choose to forgo abortions, she said.
The measure is based on a similar law passed in Texas last year requiring that a doctor conduct a sonogram, describe the fetus and play aloud the fetal heartbeat, whether the woman wanted to hear it or not. The law was unanimously upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a group of doctors sued to block the law, saying it impeded their First Amendment rights and wrongly dictated how a doctor should treat their patients.
“So this bill today, before you, adds the additional feature of giving the woman the opportunity to heartbeat of her unborn child. I stress that because there seems to be a lot of distortions around giving someone the opportunity,” she said in a House Health and Welfare committee.
The bill, which was backed without objection, says, “the heartbeat of the unborn child, if present, will be made audible unless you request and sign an opt-out form.”
Dorinda Bordlee, an anti-abortion attorney who testified in favor of the measure, said legalized abortion has facilitated the sexual exploitation of women.
“We have women being coerced into abortion clinics. Not choosing abortion, but being coerced, out of either abandonment or actual direct coercion,” she said.
Opponents of the measure said it borders on physical battery and emotional abuse of the mother.
“No woman seeking an abortion would want these images and sounds replayed in her head day after day,” said Jackie Hawkins, a constituent in Broome’s district. “Furthermore, is it the state’s goal to driver her insane by adding insult to injury? If she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, trust me, she has weighed all her options.”
A separate proposal taken up in the Senate Health and Welfare committee focused on the fetus’ ability to feel pain.
The bill by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, would ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization, excepted in limited medical cases where the mother’s life is in danger, declaring the fetus can feel pain at that point. A doctor deemed in violation of the measure would face a prison sentence of up to two years.
Alario’s bill says that pain receptors are present all throughout an unborn child’s body and that “after twenty weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.”
“This bill is trying its best to protect the unborn. Studies have shown pain can be felt at 20 weeks,” Alario said.
Teresa Stanton Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, said six states have similar laws. She said the prohibition would only affect a small number of abortions in the state, because fewer than 2 percent of Louisiana’s abortions are performed after the benchmark established in the bill.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee backed the bill without objection.