Friday, April 28, 2006

Senate Bill 33 PASSES! LA votes to criminalize abortions.

After 90 minutes of emotional debate, the Senate voted 30-7 for Senate Bill 33 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, allowing abortions only to save the life of the mother. Sen. Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, tried to amend Nevers' bill to conform with a state law passed in 1991 that also allowed abortions for victims of rape and incest, but the proposal was rejected 17-20.

As Nevers' bill heads to the House, it would criminalize abortions in the state if the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which made abortion legal in 1973, is overturned "in whole or in part" or if a federal constitutional amendment passes giving the states the authority to regulate abortions.

Nevers said his bill would not generate lawsuits that nullified the state's 1991 abortion ban because it would not take affect until Roe is reversed or the U.S. Constitution is amended. Anti-abortion proponents feel the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade following the recent appointment of more conservative justices. An abortion case is on the court's current docket.

Nevers' bill would subject a convicted abortionist to a minimum of one and up to 10 years in jail, and a fine between $10,000 and $100,000. The woman who has the procedure would not be subject to criminal penalties.

"They are putting politics over the health and safety of women," Julie Mickleberry, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta said after the vote. "We are taking this day by day and will try to do some education" of lawmakers before the bill is heard in the House.

Nevers told the Senate that the state "has a right and a duty to protect every human being, whether they are four weeks old, nine months old or 100 years old. . . . I would never want to hurt a victim of rape or incest. We must do all that we can to protect human life."

Before the bill cleared the Senate, Gov. Kathleen Blanco told reporters that she will sign "some kind of abortion bill" but that she is "waiting to see" what form it will take. She said she likes the provision in Nevers' bill that would allow the state to have a law on its books that wouldn't take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe decision.

Blanco called that provision "realistic" because it would forestall costly court challenges

Chaisson argued that the state should re-enact the law that was adopted in 1991 under then-Gov. Buddy Roemer, which made abortion a criminal act except to save the mother's life and for pregnancies caused by rape and incest. Federal courts ruled the statute was unconstitutional in 1992.

Chaisson said most people in the state favor exceptions for rape and incest.

Nevers said of the 40,000 abortions in the past three years in Louisiana, only one was from a reported rape, although many may not have been reported as cases of rape or incest.

"It would be presumptuous of me as a man to try to understand what a pregnancy from rape and incest does to a woman," Chaisson said. He said that if his wife or daughter became pregnant from a rape, he would talk with his family and priest about what alternatives existed.

"But the bottom line for me is that it is not his (a priest's) decision, it is not my decision, it is her decision," Chaisson said. "Sen. Nevers' bill makes that decision for her."

Sen. Sherri Cheek, R-Shreveport, urged adoption of the Chaisson amendment, saying that the law should not put rape and incest victims "into a position where they feel trapped" by choices.

Nevers said that a woman who has been traumatized by rape should not have to be subjected to another brutal act like abortion. "I cannot justify that in my mind," he said.

. . . . . . .

Capital bureau chief Robert Travis Scott contributed to this story. Ed Anderson can be reached at eanderson@timespicayune.com or (225) 342-5810.

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ROLL CALL

How New Orleans area senators voted on an amendment to Senate Bill 33 to add cases of rape and incest as exceptions to a ban on abortion. The amendment was rejected 17-20.

YES: Walter Boasso, R-Chalmette; Chaisson, D-Destrehan; Dupre, D-Montegut; Francis Heitmeier, D-Algiers; Ken Hollis, R-Metairie; Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans; Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero.

NO: Amedee, D-Gonzales; Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans; Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans; Art Lentini, R-Kenner; Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa; Quinn, R-Metairie; Tom Schedler, R-Mandeville; Chris Ullo, D-Marrero.

Here is how the New Orleans area delegation voted on the final bill, which was approved 30-7:

FOR: Boasso; Duplessis; Heitmeier; Lentini; Nevers; Julie Quinn, R-Metairie; Schedler; Shepherd; and Ullo.

AGAINST: Bajoie; Hollis; and Murray.

ABSENT: Chaisson.


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