By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The Louisiana House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill to impose new restrictions on abortion clinics, adopting a measure similar to one in other states that have forced clinics to shut down.
Without discussion, the House voted 85-6 to approve the bill, which requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at an adequately equipped hospital within 30 miles of the place where the abortion is performed.
The bill was backed by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal and sponsored by Democratic Representative Katrina Jackson, who chairs the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. The bill next goes to the state Senate. No vote has been scheduled yet.
“This is about the safety of women,” Jackson said, noting a federal appeals court has upheld a Texas law that contains the same language as the Louisiana bill.
Admitting privileges allow a doctor to admit a patient for treatment at a hospital usually by being an approved caregiver who can use hospital facilities for treatment.
Abortion rights groups have said the privileges provision is designed to close clinics in rural areas where medical care can be sparse, and unnecessary because abortion complications, albeit rare, are usually similar to those of a miscarriage, which often are treated by emergency room physicians.
Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, predicted that at least three of the state’s five clinics could close if the bill is enacted.
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues worldwide, said the effort by lawmakers to rein in physicians who perform abortions is part of trend sweeping through many states.
“Now the effort is to simply adopt enough abortion restrictions so that clinics can’t keep their doors open and women can’t navigate all the legal barriers put in their way,” Nash said.
Similar laws are in effect in North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Lawmakers in the Oklahoma House last month approved an abortion measure similar to the one in Louisiana.
Since the Texas law went into effect five months ago, about a third of the abortion providers have closed, mostly because of the admitting privileges provision, leaving 19 clinics in a state with 26 million people.
North Dakota’s only abortion clinic secured admitting privileges and remains open.
In addition to Louisiana, six other states have introduced physician-privileges bills recently, Nash said.
Laws requiring admitting privileges have been enjoined pending a final decision in the courts in other states.