Louisiana lawmakers add new regulations for abortion clinics
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After passing one of the nation's strictest abortion bans, Louisiana lawmakers also have passed new abortion clinic regulations that critics said would create additional hurdles to access.
One measure will lengthen the time that clinics must retain patient records, with detailed requirements and hefty penalties for violations. The other will require women seeking an abortion to receive lengthy background information about the doctor who will perform the procedure.
Both bills were sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat expected to sign them into law.
Louisiana lawmakers work to steadily erode abortion rights every year in the conservative, religious state where new restrictions regularly are supported by Republicans and Democrats.
The majority-Republican Legislature on Wednesday gave final passage to a measure that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks of pregnancy. Edwards quickly signed the bill Thursday, making Louisiana the fifth state to enact such a prohibition — though Louisiana's law only takes effect if Mississippi's similar law is upheld by a federal appeals court.
Additional legislation by Republican Rep. Raymond Crews, of Bossier City, that won final passage from state lawmakers Thursday boosts the records retention requirements of abortion clinics. The facilities will have to keep records of the procedure for seven years when the woman is 18 or older — and until a woman is 28 years old, if she was younger than 18 when she got an abortion. The records must be kept for 30 years if any child abuse was reported.
Violators of the records retention provisions could face large civil fines and license suspension or revocation.
During committee testimony on the bill, Crews and Attorney General Jeff Landry's office said the longer retention period would help combat human trafficking by having records available to investigators. Elizabeth Murrill, a lawyer with Landry's office, accused abortion clinics of destroying records and trying to obstruct sexual assault investigations.
"What we have is a record of at least two clinics in Louisiana shredding medical records," Murrill said.
Linda Hawkins, with the League of Women Voters of Louisiana, called that claim "bogus." She said the bill sought to stoke fear in women seeking an abortion and their doctors.
"The underlying nature of the bill is to curtail and limit access to health care," Hawkins said. "This bill is not a human trafficking bill."
A second measure by Republican Sen. Beth Mizell, of Franklinton, will require women seeking an abortion to get written information that includes details about the physician's board certifications, malpractice insurance and any disciplinary actions against the doctor. That bill received final passage Friday.
Mizell said the new requirements will help protect women's health. Opponents during committee debate said the bill seeks to provoke fear in women seeking an abortion by giving them lengthy, confusing information that might make them worried about the safety of a legal health care procedure.