From The Washington Post:
Republicans in the Louisiana House advanced a bill Wednesday that would classify abortion as homicide and allow prosecutors to criminally charge patients, with supporters citing a draft opinion leaked this week showing the Supreme Court ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The legislation, which passed through a committee on a 7-to-2 vote, goes one step further than other antiabortion bans that have gained momentum in recent years, which focus on punishing abortion providers and others who help facilitate the procedure. Experts say the bill could also restrict in vitro fertilization and emergency contraception because it would grant constitutional rights to a person “from the moment of fertilization.”
Discussing the legislation less than 48 hours after the leaked Supreme Court draft proposing to overturn the 1973 ruling that has protected abortion rights, lawmakers and advocates who spoke in support of the bill appeared energized by the prospect of a long-sought imminent victory. One advocate who helped draft the bill specifically cited the draft opinion.
“The Supreme Court is poised to ignore Roe versus Wade,” said Bradley Pierce, executive director of the Foundation to Abolish Abortion.
He appeared at the committee hearing with the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Danny McCormick (R).
“We’ve been waiting 50 years to get to this point,” said McCormick, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Although the antiabortion movement has traditionally embraced policies that claim to protect both the woman and the fetus — and avoided laws that criminalize those seeking abortions — abortion rights advocates worry that could change if Roe is overturned. Without the long-standing court precedent to temper state legislation, experts and advocates say, antiabortion lawmakers may begin targeting patients, especially in cases of medication abortions where pills are obtained by the patient illegally online.
Louisiana is one of 13 states that has a “trigger law,” which would make abortion illegal as soon as Roe is overturned. But antiabortion advocates on Wednesday said legislation did not go far enough.
“I know we have a trigger law,” said Brian Gunter, a pastor who helped draft the bill. “It says that abortion providers have to pay a $1,000 fine … that is woefully insufficient.”
“I just want to sort of level-set here first: This is a homicide statute,” said Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans-based attorney who represents abortion rights groups. “What this bill does is to specifically amend the crime of homicide and the crime of criminal battery to enable the state to charge people, including the pregnant mother, at any stage of fertilization.”
“For legislators in the movement, their agenda is to stop abortion,” said Mary Ziegler, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School specializing in the history of abortion law. “When there is a conflict between punishing pregnant people and stopping abortion, it’s clear what they’re going to do.”
While some in antiabortion circles occasionally discuss the idea of punishing abortion patients, Ziegler said, that idea has not gained much traction.
To see a bill like this moving through a state legislature is “definitely new,” she said.