- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Legislature approved a ban on a late-term abortion procedure yesterday, the first state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal ban earlier this year.

The House voted unanimously to approve a measure that would allow “partial-birth” abortions only when failure to perform it would endanger the mother’s life. The procedure would be a crime in all other cases, including situations where the pregnancy is expected to cause health problems for the mother.

The measure goes to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat who describes herself as pro-life but has not indicated whether she plans to sign the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Beard, a Republican, would impose fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and jail terms of one to 10 years for doctors who perform the surgery. The measure matches the federal ban that President Bush signed into law in 2003, upheld in April by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The procedure, generally used to end pregnancies in the second and third trimester, involves partially removing the baby intact from a woman’s uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. Opponents of the procedure call it partial-birth abortion.

The procedure is the subject of bitter debate between pro-life groups, who support state bans, and pro-choice groups, who opposed the federal ban and have fought state bans, including Mr. Beard’s legislation.

Planned Parenthood officials argued against the ban in committee hearings but received a chilly response from lawmakers. Only one legislator voted against the measure, in committee or on floor votes: Rep. Charlie DeWitt, a Democrat who asked why only the doctor — not the mother — should be subject to prosecution.

Other states are expected to consider similar bans.

In April, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling said the ban passed by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Bush did not violatea woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

It was the first ruling that banned a specific abortion procedure.

Also winning final legislative approval was a bill that would require all women seeking an abortion to be notified that unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks’ gestation and for doctors who perform the procedure to discuss the availability of painkillers for the unborn children. Mrs. Blanco also has not indicated whether she would sign the measure.