BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An effort to prohibit a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure received overwhelming support Thursday from lawmakers in the Louisiana House.
The bill by Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Bossier City who is running for Congress, would ban a procedure called dilation and evacuation, known as D&E. The procedure would only be allowed if necessary to prevent "serious health risk" to the mother.
The House voted 83-0 for the bill, which heads next to the Senate for consideration. No one spoke in opposition to the prohibition measure on the House floor, and there was no debate. More than 20 lawmakers were absent.
Similar laws have been passed in four other states, with anti-abortion groups describing the procedures as "dismemberment abortions." State courts have blocked the laws in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Johnson described the abortion method as "inhumane and barbaric" and "torturous."
Opponents say that description isn't medically accurate. They say the bill would criminalize the safest method of second-trimester abortion, leaving women at risk when they seek an alternative.
D&Es, or surgical abortions, are used in the majority of procedures in the second trimester — or after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization says such abortions have fewer complications than procedures done with medication in the second trimester.
Under the bill, only the performing physician would be legally responsible and subject to penalties for violations of the ban, which could include loss of license. Violations also would carry a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine up to $1,000 per incident. In addition, civil damages could be sought by the woman who has the abortion and others.
The House also voted 75-1 Thursday for a separate measure by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, that would prohibit abortions performed because the fetus is determined to have a genetic abnormality.
"For these beautiful children, I ask you to stand with me today," Edmonds said before lawmakers voted to send the proposal to the Senate.
Louisiana has repeatedly enacted abortion restrictions over the years with broad support across party lines. Earlier this legislative session, the House voted to triple the wait time for a woman to have an abortion to 72 hours. That proposal, too, awaits decision from the Senate.
Under a 2012 law, Louisiana bans all abortion after 20 weeks.