Once again, abortion arises as an issue in the presidential election, as Mitt Romney attempts to soften his stance on abortion and contraception. But a little over a week ago, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal reassured Americans that Romney is the "only pro-life candidate." Jindal, though, is not alone as a pro-life politician in Louisiana.
Weaving through the crowds on Bourbon Street on Friday night last weekend, the struggle for reproductive rights in Louisiana was the last thing on my mind. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been.
When Louisiana passed a law in 2011 dictating that abortion clinics must hang signs telling women they cannot be forced (coerced) into having abortions and established a website “providing misinformation about abortion,” Republican Governor Bobby Jindal defended it by comparing women seeking abortions to criminals:
“When officers arrest criminals today, they are read their rights. Now if we're giving criminals their basic rights and they have to be informed of those rights, it seems to me only common sense we would have to do the same thing for women before they make the choice about whether to get an abortion.”
And just a week ago, part of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation requested a congressional investigation into the reporting practices of abortion clinics, alleging “abortions are routinely being performed on minors without the regard to report these procedures to appropriate authorities.” Louisiana requires parental consent in addition to its spate of other restrictions.
Here's a brief recent-ish history of regulation in Louisiana.
In 2001, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a civil-liability law which had previously been ruled unconstitutional, allowing women to sue doctors for as much money as they want for up to ten years after having an abortion “not just for her own injuries, but also for ‘damages occasioned by the unborn child.’" In summary, “if regret, then sue.”
In June, Governor Jindal signed a set of new abortion bills into law. One of these extends the waiting time between a mandatory ultrasound and an abortion from two hours to 24and requires the woman to listen to the heartbeat and view the ultrasound image. Previously, women had to be offered the ultrasound. Now, the doctor must turn the screen towards her and she can only opt out of listening in writing. The other permits only physicians to perform abortions. Both of these bills were written by Democratic state senators.
Also in June, Governor Jindal signed a fetal pain bill prohibiting abortions after twenty weeks with the only exception being endangerment of the mother’s life.
In August, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana denied a challenge to an amendment to the 2001 Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law, which required clinics be shut down “after ‘substantial failure’ to comply with the regulations.” The amendment, passed in 2010, allows the Department of Health and Hospitals to shut down clinics immediately, not allowing them time to rectify their violations. The court found “the law puts no new requirements on the clinics; there is no harm that would justify striking down the law.” At least one clinic has already been shut down under the 2010 amendment.
The fight for rights in Louisiana has also infiltrated higher education: a chalk campaign in September by Tulane Students for Life ignited a hullabaloo on campus, with one critic calling it “incredibly inappropriate and tasteless.”
The Louisiana House is a slight majority Republican, and the Louisiana Senate is nearly 2:1 Republican. But party lines don’t necessarily predict reproductive rights voting in Louisiana, as evidenced by the overwhelming numbers voting for the pair of June legislations discussed earlier; 96-1 in the House and 33-3 in the Senate.
Editor's Note: With 19 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Arkansas, Missouri,Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!