Jindal signs anti-abortion bills in West Monroe

MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Against the backdrop of a West Monroe Baptist church, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday signed into law new restrictions against abortion in Louisiana, saying the measures will protect women and "the life of the unborn."
The most sweeping change will require doctors who perform abortions to have the ability to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed and that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services.
The new law, sponsored by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, takes effect Sept. 1.
Abortion-rights groups say the requirement will shutter at least three of Louisiana's five abortion clinics, leaving only clinics in the Shreveport area in the northwestern corner of the state.
Jindal also signed a bill by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, to prohibit people who work for abortion providers from distributing health information at Louisiana's public schools. The ban kicks in Aug. 1, before the new school year begins.
"These new laws will give women the health and safety protections they deserve, and continue to make Louisiana a state that values individual human life," the Republican governor said at the signing ceremony, according to a statement.
Louisiana lawmakers approved the bills with overwhelming and bipartisan support.
Similar admitting privileges laws have passed in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma. A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld the Texas law.
Supporters say the requirement ensures women have access to proper care if they have complications from an abortion, like hemorrhages or cervical injuries.
"Women who resort to the traumatic experience of abortion are entitled to have these procedures performed in a safe environment," Jackson said in a statement.
Abortion-rights groups say doctors who perform abortions have difficulty getting admitting privileges because hospitals don't want the negative attention. They say the restrictions are medically unnecessary and could send women to search for riskier methods of abortion if they can't reach a clinic.
"Plain and simple, this is a measure designed to run caring, trustworthy health professionals out of practice, and it could drastically reduce women's access to safe and legal care when they need to end a pregnancy. It is an affront to women's rights," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
The bill also will force women who take the abortion pill to meet the same 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements as those who have surgical abortions. And it require a doctor who performs more than five abortions a year to meet the inspections required of abortion clinics, instead of the 60 abortion requirement in current law.
Hoffmann said his measure to ban employees of abortion providers from distributing health information at the state's public schools will keep people with a financial interest in promoting abortion from speaking to students.
He said the bill defends "the parental right to guide a child's moral development."
Opponents call it a direct attack on Planned Parenthood. Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the new law will "restrict the ability of our youth to get sex education from the leading experts in the field."

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