With a 34 to 3 vote, the full Senate has approved HB 388, requiring doctors who perform any abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.
“There are parts of the state where there is no hospital within 30 miles, period,” protested New Orleans Senator J.P. Morrell. “That would make it impossible for there to be procedures done in rural areas.”
Morrell attempted to add an amendment removing the 30-mile radius rule, which would impact rural doctors prescribing RU-486, the so-called “abortion pill”. HB388 treats chemical and surgical abortions the same.
Baton Rouge Senator Sharon Weston-Broome, handling the bill for its author, Monroe Representative Katrina Jackson, objected to the amendment.
“The radius issue is something I believe is an integral part of her legislation,” Weston-Broome told the Senate.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the 30-mile radius rule in the similar Texas law, passed in 2013. That law has closed at least 19 clinics, and anti-abortion activists have been pressuring hospitals into revoking admitting privileges for doctors who do abortions.
Opponents of the bill have said it will close all three of the abortion clinics in south Louisiana, leaving only two Shreveport-area clinics open.
Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans was the lone Louisiana senator voicing objection to the bill itself.
“You’re reducing access to a legal procedure,” Peterson remonstrated. “This bill could potentially block a woman in Louisiana from getting a safe and legal abortion. It hurts women! And that might be your intent!”
The shouting is all but over, however. Although the bill must still return to the House for concurrence on a Senate committee-added amendment, that’s purely a formality. Then it will go to Governor Jindal’s desk, where his signature is not in doubt.