Louisiana’s “Feticide” Bill


I have a new story up today on a bill in Louisiana that would ban all abortions in the state and allow for abortion providers and women who obtain abortions to be charged with “feticide,” a felony carrying a prison term of up to 15 years. John LaBruzzo (R), the Louisiana state representative behind the bill, claims that the inclusion of the line stipulating that women could be prosecuted for obtaining abortions was an accidental “mis-draft.”

The current text of the bill is pretty explicit, though: “Feticide is the killing of an unborn child by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of a person, including the mother of the unborn child.” In LaBruzzo’s proposal, the word “including” replaces the words “other than,” which appear in curent Louisiana law—a small change that completely alters the meaning of the provision.

It’s pretty hard to believe this language was changed accidentially. I believe the real reason LaBruzzo now plans to remove it was not that it was a “mis-draft,” but simply that, as LaBruzzo told the local news, including such a provision “would make [the law] too difficult to pass.” He acknowledges the fact that most people—no matter how anti-abortion they are—don’t actually think that a woman should be put in jail for up to 15 years, with hard labor, for obtaining an abortion.

Even if LaBruzzo removes the language on charging women with “feticide,” the legislation should still raise questions about how exactly anti-abortion lawmakers think the state should deal with women who violated the law. Someone should ask him, then, what he does think the punishment should be. I tried to, but he didn’t respond to my inquiries.

Writing about Louisiana’s proposed law reminded me of a video of abortion protestors in Libertyville, Illinois. In it, a cameraman from At Center Network asks the protestors the seemingly simple question: If you think abortion should be illegal, how should violators be punished? It quickly becomes clear that many of the demonstrators haven’t really thought that question through to its logical conclusion.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.