Louisiana Fixin’ To Redefine Abortion As Murder, Because That’s What The Bumper Sticker Says

With the Supreme Court preparing to eliminate the right to abortion (and far more) by overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Republicans in state legislatures are rushing to pass new laws criminalizing abortion. But just outlawing abortion isn’t enough for many in the GOP: They also want to underline their hatred of abortion (and anyone who’d perform or have one) by imposing harsh criminal penalties, not solely for doctors who perform abortions or prescribe medicine to induce an abortion, but also anyone who has an abortion. After all, if abortion is murder, then you need to send the murderers to prison, if not the gallows.

Charging enthusiastically into the race to the bottom, Republicans in Louisiana are advancing a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and grant full constitutional rights to “all unborn children from the moment of fertilization.” Louisiana HB 813, called the “Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act of 2022,” starts with the Book of Genesis and gets worse from there:

Acknowledging the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, which should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death, the legislature hereby declares that the purpose of this Act is to:

(1) Fully recognize the human personhood of an unborn child at all stages of development prior to birth from the moment of fertilization.

(2) Ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings.

(3) Recognize that the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States are the supreme law of the land.

Yr Dok Zoom is not a lawyer, but I assume the religious language about zygotes being “created in the image of God” wouldn’t formally violate separation of church and state because it’s only a prefatory flourish.

But wait! Louisiana already has one of those “trigger” laws that’s meant to criminalize abortion as soon as Roe is overturned. Why do Republicans want to pass a whole ‘nother law banning abortion? The new bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Gilead), explained he introduced it in March because “We can’t wait on the Supreme Court.” The bill was passed in committee Wednesday and will now go to the full state House for a vote.

McCormick wrote the bill with the help of Rev. Brian Gunter, a Baptist pastor, who explained waiting until a ruling from the Supremes would be intolerable to God Almighty:

“No compromises; no more waiting,” Gunter said. “The bloodshed in our land is so great we have a duty … to protect the least of these among us.”

Gunter also explained that the existing “trigger” law simply isn’t vengeful enough against abortion providers and anyone seeking an abortion, because it only “says that abortion providers have to pay a $1,000 fine … that is woefully insufficient.” He wants jail time, obviously.

While the bill doesn’t specify penalties for abortion, it builds a ban on abortion into Louisiana’s existing law against “feticide,” which enhances prison terms for crimes in which a fetus is killed. The current law includes an exception for abortions, which would be revoked.

First degree feticide under current Louisiana law carries a sentence of 15 years in prison with hard labor, so that ought to be a linguistically satisfying penalty for people who terminate pregnancies. We’ll have to see if that’s tough enough to satisfy the holy spirit of vengeance, though. Republicans in other states have in the past introduced bills that would institute capital punishment for abortions, so there’s little reason they’ll refrain from pursuing that even more fervently when Roe is gone.

Just to be absolutely clear that human life begins at conception, the bill defines human life as beginning with “fertilization” and strikes out the older law’s definition, so that “‘Person’ includes a human being from the moment of fertilization and implantation” and “Unborn child” is now defined as “an individual human being from fertilization and implantation until birth.”

We’re fairly sure the intent there is to criminalize IUDs, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. But hey, it also seems to mean that if you have an ectopic pregnancy, you’ll just have to let it kill you, because that’s an actual person with full constitutional rights in your fallopian tube, and never mind that it can’t possibly be carried to term, because it will die when it gets big enough to make you hemorrhage to death. Should have thought about that before you let your body do that.

The bill does include a weird section that, as far as I can tell, would allow people to maybe claim self-defense, but it appears only to apply to cases where someone is forced to perform or to have an abortion at gunpoint:

When any crime, except murder where the victim is not an unborn child, is committed through the compulsion of threats by another of death or great bodily harm, and the offender reasonably believes the person making the threats is present and would immediately carry out the threats if the crime were not committed

That definitely doesn’t appear to allow a pregnant person to have an abortion because a fertilized egg threatened to kill them by growing outside the uterus. But we’d definitely watch that movie.

And since the bill is already assuming the right to abortion has been repealed, it even includes a couple of bizarre lines declaring the law exempt from any review by the federal courts, and requiring that any state judge who “purports to enjoin, stay, overrule, or void any provision of this Section shall be subject to impeachment or removal.” So there, this law is perfect and you can’t even question it in court.

Hell, even after Roe is thrown out, that bit seems a tad unconstitutional, but as I say, I’m just an old-fashioned country doktor of rhetoric, not a lawyer.

[Louisiana HB 813 / Lafayette Daily Advertiser / Reuters / WaPo]

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