HomePoliticsLouisiana lawmakers reject adding rape and incest exceptions to the abortion ban

Louisiana lawmakers reject adding rape and incest exceptions to the abortion ban

Despite pleas from Democrats and heartbreaking testimony from doctors and rape survivors, a Republican Party-controlled legislative committee on Tuesday rejected a bill that would have added cases of rape and incest as exceptions to Louisiana’s abortion ban.

In the reliably red state, which is firmly entrenched in the Bible Belt and where even some Democrats oppose abortion, adding exceptions to Louisiana’s strict law is an ongoing battle for advocates — with a similar measure failing last year. Currently, six of the fourteen states that ban abortions at all stages of pregnancy have exceptions for cases of rape and five for incest.

“I will implore the members of the committee to exercise common sense,” Democratic state Rep. Alonzo Knox told fellow lawmakers ahead of the vote, urging them to approve the exceptions. “I’m begging now.”

Lawmakers voted against the bill along party lines, with the measure failing 4-7.

A nearly identical bill met the same fate last year and essentially died in the same committee. Hoping to advance the legislation out of committee and into the House for full debate, Democratic state Rep. Delisha Boyd added an amendment to the measure so that the exceptions would only apply to those under 17 years of age. the change still wasn’t enough to sway opponents.

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“We have cases here in Louisiana where children are raped and then have to carry a child into the world,” said Boyd, a Democrat who has told her own mother’s story in an effort to fight for passage of the bill. “I hope we look at the fact that this is to protect the most vulnerable, our children.”

Boyd said she will continue to try to get the bill to the floor, possibly asking the House of Representatives to vote to bypass the committee. However, the technique is rarely successful for Democrats in the legislature, where Republicans have a supermajority.

While most people who voted against the bill did not give a reason for their vote, Republican Party Rep. Dodie Horton voiced her opinion, saying that while she believes convicted rapists should receive the maximum punishment possible, cannot in good conscience allow that. for abortions. She described the fetuses as “innocent children.”

‘I think we should punish the perpetrator to the utmost. I would like to put it up on the high street if I were able to. But I cannot condone the killing of innocents,” Horton said.

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Like several other Republican states, Louisiana’s abortion law took effect in 2022 following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a half-century of nationwide abortion rights. The only exceptions to the ban are if there is a significant risk of death or disability to the mother if she continues the pregnancy, or in the case of ‘medically futile’ pregnancies – when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Democrats have repeatedly fought — and failed — to loosen the law by clarifying vague language, eliminating prison sentences for doctors who perform illegal abortions and adding exceptions.

“I find it disgusting that we have a society where we cannot make exceptions in a situation where a young girl’s innocence has been taken away in the most despicable way… nine, 10, 11, 12, 13 year old child to have a ​​to have a baby for the monster who took away her innocence? said Knox.

The bill drew dozens of people to testify, including rape survivors who shared their own stories and doctors who said their hands are tied by the current law.

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Obstetrician Dr. Neelima Sukhavasi told lawmakers that since the abortion ban came into effect, she and other colleagues have delivered babies born to teenagers who have been raped.

“One of these teenagers gave birth to a baby while holding a teddy bear in his arms – and that’s an image that, once you see it, you can’t unsee it,” Sukhavasi said.

There were 7,444 reported abortions in Louisiana in 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, 27 were obtained by people under the age of 15. Nationwide, 1,338 pregnant patients under the age of 15 underwent abortions, the CDC said.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that between July 2022 and January 2024, more than 64,000 pregnancies occurred due to rape in states that ban abortion in all or most cases.

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