A legislative committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would expose a person to homicide charges if they receive an abortion in the state.
The bill, sponsored by state GOP Rep. Danny McCormick, comes after a draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court was leaked earlier this week, which suggested the Court was set to overturn the precedents established in Roe v. Wade, a 1973 case that recognized the right to abortion throughout the country.
Although the leaked document shows majority support by the Court, the ruling will not go into effect until it becomes official. McCormick said the matter was too important to wait for the justices to make it official, however.
“We can’t wait on the Supreme Court,” McCormick said.
The bill would define a person’s life as starting at fertilization, and would only allow abortion to occur in order to save a person’s life. The bill also makes an exception for punishment against a person who has an abortion if they were coerced or forced into having one by another individual.
House Bill 813, titled “The Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act,” justifies the banning of abortion, in part, by citing religious beliefs, and states that criminalizing the act is necessary to preserve “the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God.” The bill would outlaw abortion and define personhood “from fertilization” onward.
The bill also claims that it cannot be stricken down by any future law established by the federal government, through a Supreme Court ruling or an act from Congress, defying the basic tenets of constitutional hierarchy.
If passed, it’s possible that a person who has an abortion in Louisiana could be charged with murder, and subsequently punished with imprisonment.
Besides outlawing the basic human right to abortion, the bill has other glaring problems, opponents of the measure said — including creating additional obstacles for individuals that are seeking to become parents but who are facing fertility issues. Because the bill defines fertilization as the basis for when human life begins, the discarding of fertilized eggs in the in vitro fertilization process would be deemed illegal.
Some forms of birth control could also be outlawed under the bill, as certain medications are designed not only to prevent fertilization but to also stop a fertilized egg from implanting inside a uterus.
Medical experts agree that fertilization is not the point at which pregnancy occurs — it is when implantation happens that a fertilized egg is able to start developing.
The bill is unique for other reasons as well. It contradicts a long-standing Republican talking point on abortion — that planned punishments for the procedure, should they be allowed after Roe is tossed aside, would only occur for those who perform abortions, not on those seeking them.
“Republicans told us for years that they would never punish women who get abortions,” noted Mark Joseph Stern, senior writer for Slate, in a tweet discussing the bill. “Now that Roe’s about to fall, they’re racing to authorize the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of abortion patients for murder.”