Louisiana seeks to classify abortion as 'homicide'

US Senate to hold vote on codifying abortion rights into federal law next week

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Legislators in the US state of Louisiana have advanced a bill that would ban abortion in the state, classify the procedure as a homicide and give constitutional rights to “all unborn children from the moment of fertilisation”.

The state's latest move came days after a leaked document showed the Supreme Court was planning to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, which legalised abortion in the US.

Louisiana state Representative Danny McCormick, a Republican who introduced the “Abolition of Abortion Act” legislation in March, said the state should carry forward with its legislation despite the high court's coming ruling.

“We cannot wait on the Supreme Court,” Mr McCormick said in a hearing on Wednesday.

The bill would “ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilisation by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings”.

Opponents argue it appears the text would allow for the prosecution of anyone who has an abortion or performs the operation on homicide charges.

“What this bill does is to specifically amend the crime of homicide and the crime of criminal battery to enable the state to charge people, including the pregnant person — the pregnant mother — at any stage of gestation,” Ellie Schilling, a Louisiana lawyer who represents reproductive healthcare providers, said during the committee hearing.

Louisiana is one of several conservative states pushing to restrict abortion laws following the Supreme Court's majority opinion leak.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law this week that would ban abortions after six weeks, similar to one enacted by Texas last year.

Legislators in Nebraska and Indiana are seeking to convene special assemblies to consider limiting abortion rights.

And other conservative legislatures have trigger laws in place that — should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade — would immediately ban the procedure in their states.

The document's leak injected new urgency among Democrats, with a Senate vote to codify abortion rights into federal law scheduled for next week. With the party holding a narrow majority, however, the vote is all but doomed to fail.

Still, the vote will largely be seen as a symbolic one for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who hopes to put politicians' stances on the record.

“Next week’s vote will be one of the most important we ever take,” Mr Schumer said on Thursday. “Because it deals with one of the most personal and difficult decisions a woman ever has to make in her life.

“Come next week, Senate Republicans will have to answer for everything they’ve done over the years to embolden the hard right’s hostility against a woman’s choice. The vote will tell next week, America will be watching.”

Republicans have mainly focused on the leak of the draft rather than the overturning of the 1973 decision, which would be a monumental victory for the party that has sought to repeal it for generations.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was supportive of Democratic efforts to codify a right to abortion into federal law, but was pessimistic about its chances in the current Congress.

“He did not feel we had the votes at this point in time,” Ms Psaki said.

“But certainly providing a moment for people to voice their view and voice their strong opposition to overturning Roe v Wade is something we support Leader Schumer doing.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 06, 2022, 6:17 PM