09 April 2014

Committee action, Apr. 9: HB 727, HB 305

HB 727 by Rep. Barry Ivey would require resource provision for women contemplating abortion. He told the Health and Welfare Committee the current law did not provide adequate mental health counseling. Then Rep. Regina Barrow offered a substitute bill, which expanded on the original. Basically, it creates pamphlets that must be distributed 24 hours prior to the contemplated procedure, emphasizing mental health, coercive, and human trafficking aspects. Witnesses said it was important because information helps some women understand that abortion often is a symptom of much larger life crises for which they can receive assistance in addressing.

Opponents, who ran abortion clinics or financing mechanisms, said they didn’t talk anybody into abortions. They said they give counseling information already (although the list read off titled to pro-abortion sources). They claimed many of the things in the bill they already did, so it was unnecessary. They said it was lack of support services that encouraged abortion, not lack of information. Also, they said they provided this information at their cost, not the state’s.

Chairman Scott Simon asked what the purpose of the information they gave was, the answer being it was to help women make a decision. Simon said this differed from the purpose of the bill, which was to give women who did not have full information the kind of information to discourage abortion. He also noted even if there was a cost to the state in preparing these brochures, even prevention of one abortion made that worthwhile.

After extensive cross-examination of witnesses, Rep. Bernard LeBas said he hoped opponents would embrace the bill if it passed. Rep. Kenny Cox, after agreeing with the thought that the safety net in America was insufficient, said that even if more women seemed relieved after an abortion than disturbed, in a study cited by the witnesses, that some do feel disturbed and to help them avoid that and the human trafficking aspect make the bill useful. Rep. Katrina Jackson disputed the opponents’ assertion about lack of support, noting that Medicaid provided the means by which family planning could occur.

Barrow moved to adopt by substitute, which was unanimously approved. After closing debate, there was no objection to favorable reporting.

HB 305 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would prevent elective abortion providers and affiliates from distributing materials and media related to family planning and human sexuality in schools. There were amendments to put it in this posture, passed without objection.

Supporters argued that decisions whether to abort were most shaped by their immediate environment, and that many teenagers who go through it suffer mentally. They said allowing this kind of information at schools gave too much sway to abortion and too little to the culture of life. This bill, they said, would support continued commitment to a right to life and that this expression of preference to childbirth was constitutionally protected, and criticized materials that abortion providers made available that did not follow this preference that could be circulated in schools. Jackson asked Hoffman about the information. He said the provision had the effect to link a student to an abortion provider, but that information about family planning from other sources still could be disseminated.

Opponents called the bill dangerous to teenager health, saying providers were the best source for family planning information, and claimed the bill would stigmatize the word “abortion” even more. In questioning, LeBas said he thought “Planned Parenthood,” the affiliation of one of the supporters, was a misleading term. He also said that even if material that encouraged sexual activity from the national organization was not intentionally circulated in Louisiana, this was an example of something that could be circulated in the school. Barrow said that information was good, but this kind of information that LeBas had queried about was troubling. Rep. Julie Stokes then read from the information on the national site that she said seemed to endorse sex by people with HIV, and that there could be a moral divide between parents and what could appear in school, which made the bill necessary.

On closing, Hoffman emphasized information still was available, but that the link to providers was crucial to its necessity. Without objection, the bill passed.

A wonderful relief, I guess.
Simon, with a tinge or sarcasm, when commenting on the survey mentioned by HB 727 opponents.

It’s amazing what different studies can show.
Simon, when receiving the information about teenagers’ depression after abortion.

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