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Lawmakers vote down abortion exceptions for rape and incest victims


Two proposed bills to amend the state's strict abortion ban fail in a Republican-controlled House committee


Louisiana lawmakers on Wednesday failed to advance two bills that would have provided exceptions to the state's strict abortion ban for victims of rape and incest. The bills were part of a package of legislation filed in the current legislative session to expand abortion access.

New Orleans Democratic Rep. Delisha Boyd's House Bill 346 proposed exempting all victims of rape or incest who become pregnant from the abortion ban, but it failed to exit the committee on a 10-5 party-line vote, with Democrats voting for the exceptions and Republicans voting against them. House Bill 549 from Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, which sought exceptions specifically for children who suffer rape or incest, also failed along party lines with nine Republicans voting no and five Democrats voting in favor of the bill.


Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat and a pro-life supporter, had long pushed for rape and incest exemptions to the state's ban, which took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. Despite most Louisiana lawmakers opposing abortion, a majority of Louisianans support such exceptions, according to a poll conducted on behalf of pro-abortion groups by John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge-based Republican political analyst.


During the hearing, Representative Boyd shared that she was born to a 15-year-old mother who was raped by a 28-year-old man. She recounted her mother suffering in the aftermath of her rape and said that, although she was grateful to be alive, she wished her mother had had the choice to terminate the pregnancy — a choice she said should be available to all abuse survivors.


Anti-abortion witnesses offered a full-throated defense of keeping the ban in place in all instances, arguing on religious and moral grounds that the bills would be detrimental to rape and incest survivors. They said a woman's wish to get an abortion is likely a misguided one, regardless of how the pregnancy occurred.


The package of bills before the criminal justice committee Wednesday comprised the bulk of legislation filed in the current legislative session to expand abortion access. Also before the committee was House Bill 522 by Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, which would make it easier for doctors to navigate the ban by fining physicians instead of sending them to jail for performing abortions. Freeman ultimately deferred a vote on the bill, saying she plans to work on amendments to build support on the criminal justice committee, which holds a strong Republican majority.

The committee also deferred Slidell Republican Rep. Mary DuBuisson's House Bill 461, which seeks to clarify that treatment for miscarriages does not fall under the definition of an abortion. Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, also deferred her HB 598, which would create exceptions to the abortion ban for ectopic pregnancies. Both measures could be revisited by the House Health and Welfare Committee next week.


The failure of the bills highlights the steep odds supporters of abortion access face as lawmakers, doctors, and activists on both sides of the issue adjust priorities to meet demands of the post-Roe landscape.

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