BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Legislature got national attention for a bill that looked to make abortion considered a crime of homicide. On Thursday, the full House took a vote on HB813 amid major controversy and put an end to the bill for this legislative session.
Rep. Danny McCormick and supporters of his bill were unyielding in their desire to completely ban abortion and prosecute anyone who takes part in one. Religious leaders flooded the Capitol to pray and hold speeches in Memorial Hall before the vote took place.
“You can’t claim to be pro-life and vote to kill HB813 by amendment. If you’re pro-life and believe that life begins at conception you must stand for the equal protection of the pre-born,” Rep. McCormick said.
Pastor Brian Gunter, the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Livingston has been a key player in the legislation alongside McCormick. Gunter said he would be against changing the bill at all and would not make any exceptions in the bill including for rape and incest.
As soon as the bill made it out of committee it was under intense scrutiny. Some language in the bill could lead to people taking part in vitro fertilization being charged with homicide since the bill defines a child as the moment of fertilization. In IVF some eggs that are fertilized are disposed of when they may not be viable, which could be considered homicide under the bill. The bill also has the potential to ban some forms of contraception such as Plan B.
HB813 would have forced the state to ignore Roe v. Wade even before it could possibly be overturned.
“Your bill clearly violates the separation of powers doctrine,” Rep. Barry Ivey said.
Anti-abortion groups like Right to Life came out against the bill. They said their goal is not to criminalize women but to support them through their pregnancy. Governor Edwards, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat, also said he was against it.
“Louisiana law has always been about protecting babies and protecting women,” Rep. Alan Seabaugh said.
Before the bill could be debated on the House floor, an unclaimed bag was treated as a bomb threat. The entire Capitol had to be evacuated for a short time while it was inspected. After a few minutes, legislators and staff were given the all-clear.
Back in the chamber, the bill was severely amended on the House floor in hopes to tamper it down.
“We already have laws which are going to go into effect when Roe versus Wade is overturned. So we don’t need this bill. It’s already protected That has always been an essential element of pro-life law,” Rep. Seabaugh said.
Rep. Seabaugh even went so far as to apologize for being one of the votes in the House Criminal Justice Committee that allowed the bill to be passed in its original form last week.
“Personally, I want to apologize to each and every one of you. This bill came to the Criminal Justice Committee. I sit on that committee and I should have done this in committee and I didn’t. I voted the bill out of committee because by the time I figured out what I was supposed to do, it was too late. We’re having to do this here. If we had done our job in committee, we could have amended it in committee and we could have avoided this,” Rep. Seabaugh said.
The amendments made it similar to a Senate bill that penalizes doctors who perform abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Rep. McCormick said he was against adding the amendment and believed it did not go far enough in protecting unborn children.
“This amendment does away with equal protection. Equal protection gives the unborn baby the same rights as a born baby. That’s what it does. You know, it’s really simple. If we don’t do that, if we vote for this amendment, we say those babies are subhuman,” Rep. McCormick said.
After the amendments were adopted against McCormick’s objection he returned the bill to the calendar, essentially ending the debate for the year.