If you are reading this, you are more than likely aware of the legislation known as #HB388, or the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.” If not, here’s a little history: From the day it was introduced in the House by Representative Katrina R. Jackson to the time it passed full voting, in both houses, with amendments, was less than three months. It has been reported that Representative Jackson did not write the bill herself. Instead, it was written by a pro-life, public-interest law firm, Bioethics Defense Fund. Indeed, in early March (the bill itself was introduced in the House in late February), Representative Jackson was unsure of the bill’s impact on Plan B. Additionally, through Representative Jackson denied working with the Louisiana Family Forum, they proudly announced their working alliance with her on their Web site. Perhaps most egregious is that while acknowledging that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade recognizes abortion as constitutionally protected, Representative Jackson suggested that our elected officials “legislate around that.” This dangerous legislation, while masquerading as a bill designed to protect women, could ultimately force three of the five clinics in Louisiana that provide abortions to close. If interested, the final text of the bill can be found here. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 34 Yeas, 3 Nays, and 2 Absent, and the final House vote was 88 Yeas, 5 Nays, and 11 Absent. Sadly, it was reported that most of the members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee left the hearing when those in opposition to the bill gave their testimony.
The requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges at an institution within 30 miles of their practice, while touted as necessary for the health of the patient and “continuity of care,” has been deemed medically unnecessary by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association: “Abortion is a very safe procedure, and complications requiring hospital admission are extremely rare. There is no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges. Emergency room physicians, hospital-based physicians, and on-call specialists already provide prompt and effective treatment to all patients with urgent medical needs, including women with abortion-related complications.”
Ironically, the legislators ignored the fact that Louisiana does not currently require admitting privileges for any other outpatient surgery clinics.
Apparently, the politicians of Louisiana believe they know more than the medical professionals, and choose to ignore the facts:
- Fewer than 1% of all U.S. abortion patients experience a major complication.
- The risk of death associated with childbirth is 14 times higher than that associated with abortion.
- Less than 0.3% of women experiencing a complication from an abortion require hospitalization.
- In the United States, the death rate for abortion is currently 0.6 per 100,000 procedures, making it as safe or safer than receiving an injection of penicillin.
- One woman dies every 7 minutes around the world due to an unsafe illegal abortion.
- Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s range from 200,000 to 1.2 million annually.
- Prior to Roe v. Wade, as many as 5,000 American women died every year as a direct result of unsafe abortions.
- For two decades, the highest quality scientific evidence available has led to the conclusion that having an abortion does not cause mental health problems for most women.
Perhaps said legislators have a preconceived, and no doubt inaccurate, perception of the women who choose abortion? (As only 12% of Louisiana congress members are female, this should come as no surprise; what is shocking is the number of these female legislators who voted in support of this horrendous bill.) Regardless of a woman’s circumstances, abortion should always be a choice. The majority of women who makes this decision do so for a plethora of reasons:
- More than half of American women obtaining abortions are in their 20s. Women aged 20 – 24 have the highest abortion rate of any age-group (40 abortions per 1,000 women).
- Six in 10 American women having an abortion already have a child, and more than three in 10 already have two or more children.
- More than seven in 10 U.S. women obtaining an abortion report a religious affiliation.
- Women with family incomes below the federal poverty level account for more than 40% of all abortions. They also have one of the country’s highest abortion rates (52 per 1,000 women). In contrast, higher-income women (with family incomes at or above 200% of the poverty line) have a rate of nine abortions per 1,000, which is about half the national rate.
- White women are the most common racial and ethnic group among abortion patients, accounting for 437,660, or 36.1%, of abortions. However, minorities were over-represented and, in turn, had higher abortion rates. African American women had the highest rate, 40.2 per 1,000, followed by Hispanic women, at 28.7 per 1,000.
- In the US, six in 10 abortions occur in the first eight weeks. More than nine in 10 abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only about one in 10 abortions occur in the second trimester.
- Most women in the US identify multiple reasons for having an abortion, and the reasons they have for choosing abortion reflect their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life.
- Three-fourths cite concerns for or responsibility to other individuals, including children;
- Three-fourths say they cannot afford a child;
- Three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents;
- Half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
HB388 would also impose a 24-hour waiting period on surgical abortions, and reduce the number of abortions a doctor must perform in a given year to be considered an abortion provider (only five first trimester abortions).
These regulations are on top of existing Louisiana laws, as of May 1, 2014:
Abortion would be banned if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two separate trips to the facility.
Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act may not provide coverage of abortion.
The use of telemedicine for the performance of medication abortion is prohibited.
The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the woman.
As it stands, Louisiana is already rated the worst state in the nation for women in health, economics, and leadership:
- There is only one OB-GYN for every 13,136 women in Louisiana.
- Nearly 20 percent of non-elderly women in the state are uninsured; the refusal to expand Medicaid by Governor Bobby Jindal and the legislature means that 242,000 uninsured adults (28% of the uninsured in the state) who would have been eligible for Medicaid if the state expanded fall into what is known as the the “coverage gap.”
- Full-time working women in Louisiana earn only 67 percent of what men earn, on average.
- Six out of 10 minimum-wage workers in Louisiana are women. Early in the 2014 session, bills to increase the minimum wage were killed in committee in both the House and Senate.
- Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation for teen pregnancy rates.
- Louisiana ranks second among states in percent of babies born at low birthweight.
- Louisiana ranks fourth among states in its infant mortality rate.
- There are currently 299,779 (27.3%) children living in poverty in Louisiana.
- There are currently 134,938 (12.3%) children living in EXTREME poverty in Louisiana.
- 20.2% of women (or 477,450 individuals) are living in poverty in Louisiana.
- 49% of female-led households in Louisiana live in poverty.
- 53% of the single-parent households in Louisiana are headed by working mothers.
- Louisiana has the second highest poverty rate in the nation.
- Only 12 percent of Louisiana’s congressional seats are held by women.
Additionally, Louisiana’s abortion rates have been consistently lower than the national average:
- In Louisiana, 87,700 of the 931,608 women of reproductive age became pregnant in 2011. 71% of these pregnancies resulted in live births and 14% in induced abortions.
- In 2011, 12,210 women obtained abortions in Louisiana, producing a rate of 13.1 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Some of these women were from other states, and some Louisiana residents had abortions in other states, so this rate may not reflect the abortion rate of state residents.
- In 2011, 92% of Louisiana counties had no abortion clinic. 63% of Louisiana women lived in these counties. (Note: In 2011, there were seven clinics in Louisiana; there are currently five.)
- Abortions in Louisiana represent only 1.2% of all abortions in the United States.
This cannot be stressed enough…if the law is enacted, it will leave only TWO clinics to serve nearly 932,000 women of reproductive age around the state. It will require women not living in Shreveport and Bossier City to travel upwards of several hundred miles each way, not to mention the cost of the travel, sleeping accommodations (due to the 24-hour waiting period), possible child-care costs if a woman has to leave her children, and lost wages, as well as the cost of the procedure itself, along with someone to accompany her to and from the clinic. The National Network of Abortions Funds estimates that it the total cost could be upwards of $1,600.00 for those who have to travel. There is no doubt that this law will negatively impact the lives of Louisiana women, particularly those women who are most vulnerable due to lack of resources, income, and education. Section 3 of the final text of HB388 states: “The legislature intends that every application of this statute to every individual woman shall be severable from each other. In the unexpected event that the application of this statute is found to impose an impermissible undue burden on any pregnant woman or group of pregnant women, the application of the statute to those women shall be severed from the remaining applications of the statute that do not impose an undue burden, and those remaining applications shall remain in force and unaffected.” How our legislatures do not see the closing of safe, regulated clinics as an “undue burden” on a “group of pregnant women” is perhaps the greatest irony of all. And now that the bill has passed the legislature, it is headed to Governor’s Jindal’s desk for his signature. He has publicly announced that he “can’t wait” to sign it. Nonetheless, we encourage you to make your voice heard. He can be contacted using this easy tool. Please also confirm how your Representative and Senator voted and let them know what you think of their votes. You can find how your legislator voted on this site. Now, more than ever, those of us in Louisiana who support a woman’s right to dominion over her own body, and her right to safe, legal reproductive health care, must be proactive in our approach, and focus on supporting and electing pro-choice candidates, who will vote with the safety and security of Louisiana women in mind, as opposed to their own “morality.” Please join us.
Winter Claire Randall
State Director, UniteWomen Louisiana
and supporter of ChoiceLouisiana