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Sunday, September 22, 2019

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House to consider longer waiting period for abortion in La.

House to consider longer waiting period for abortion in La.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana women would have to wait 72 hours for an abortion, joining five other states with the longest waiting periods in the nation, if state lawmakers agree to a proposal that sailed through the House health committee Wednesday.

The bill would triple Louisiana's existing 24-hour mandatory waiting period that must occur from the time when a woman consults with a doctor to the moment she gets an abortion.

The proposal includes an exception for women who live 150 miles from the nearest abortion clinic. They would still be required to wait 24 hours.

The bipartisan House Health and Welfare Committee sent the measure by its chairman, Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, to the full House without objection. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, supports the 72-hour wait.

Supporters acknowledged the effort was aimed at reducing the number of abortions in Louisiana, saying the longer waiting period would give women more time to consider alternatives.

Deanna Wallace, with Louisiana Right to Life, said people must wait 72 hours before they can close on a mortgage in Louisiana, so it is not too much to ask to have a similar delay before making "a life-changing and life-ending decision."

"This is a common-sense bill that would protect both women and their children from irreparable harm," Wallace said.

Abortion rights groups opposed the legislation. They've described similar laws as roadblocks aimed at trying to make it harder for women to access a legal procedure. But no one publicly spoke Wednesday against the latest bill, which had been expected to win easy support from a committee that has regularly agreed to abortion restrictions.

Supporters of the measure were abundant at the hearing.

Sancha Smith, Louisiana state director for the anti-abortion group Concerned Women of America, told the committee that she had an abortion as a teenager, describing it as an "impulsive decision."

"I wish this law had been in place to give me time to reflect on a decision I have come to regret," Smith said.
Five other states — Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah — already have 72-hour waiting periods in place, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Several other states impose 48-hour waiting times.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana's Legislature have approved new restrictions on abortion year after year. Another measure advanced by the House health committee on Wednesday would require doctors who perform abortions to be either board certified or certifiable in obstetrics and gynecology, or family medicine.

The bill would allow medical students enrolled in residency programs for obstetrics and gynecology or family medicine to perform abortions if under the "direct supervision" of a board-certified doctor.

The proposal was introduced by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, an abortion opponent who described the stricter standards as a safety measure.

Jackson's proposal goes next to the full House for consideration.

Online: House Bills 386 and 488: Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.