Bill to ensure La. constitution doesn’t protect abortion rights advances in the legislature

La. lawmakers consider bill to ensure state constitution doesn’t protect abortion rights

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana’s legislature is one step closer final approval of a bill that would ask voters statewide to amend the state constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case established a woman’s legal right to an abortion as the law of the land. But, that is not slowing the momentum of an anti-abortion measure at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.

State Rep. Katrina Jackson -- a Democrat from Monroe -- is sponsoring House Bill 425, which calls for the constitutional amendment.

"This will show the world and our constituency and those who matter most, those who fight for life, that Louisiana is pro-life, holistically, not only as legislators, but as a constituency as well,” Jackson said.

She said the state constitution needs to be amended just in case the federal law legalizing abortion is overturned.

“We are not voting as Louisianians on whether or not abortion is legal if the federal government says it is, but there have been attacks to many state constitutions,” Jackson said while discussing her bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday (May 7).

Pro-life forces backed her up, including Ben Clapper, the executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life.

"All it’s doing is ensuring there is no right to abortion in our state’s constitution,” Clapper said.

Proponents of Jackson’s bill believe if the historic Roe versus Wade decision falls, that will prompt pro-choice lawsuits in Louisiana, according to Dorinda Bordlee, the vice president of the Bioethics Defense Fund.

“Why is this constitutional amendment needed? Well, it’s because once it’s in the state process and this trigger goes into effect, the first thing the abortion industry would do is to go into state court and ask our state Supreme Court to find, discover a right to abortion," Bordlee said. "And so, this provision would say, ‘you can look all you want in the state constitution, there’s no abortion in here.’”

Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, likened abortion providers to well-organized drug organizations.

"We don’t want abortionists, the abortion cartel to find refuge in the state constitution to continue killing babies for cash and pretending that they’re about women’s rights,” Milkovich said.

Some of the opponents who voiced strong opposition to the measure during Tuesday’s meeting represent pro-choice groups from the New Orleans area, like Lakeesha Harris of the Women with a Vision organization.

"I would like to first clarify that I am not part of a cartel. I am a mother, I am a grandmother and I am a concerned community member about access to health care,” Harris said.

Another group called the bill harmful.

"This bill is dangerous and insulting. Our clients choose abortion willingly and with much consideration, and it’s not exactly easy to get an abortion in Louisiana,” Steffani Bangel of New Orleans Abortion Fund, said.

In the end, the proposed constitutional amendment sailed out of the Senate committee and will be considered by the full Senate. It previously received overwhelming support in the House of Representatives.

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