- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Senators agreed Thursday to a proposal aimed at prohibiting abortions performed because the fetus has a genetic abnormality, rejecting concerns such a ban would lead Louisiana to a court battle it cannot win.

Republican Sen. Dan Claitor usually votes for bills adding new restrictions on abortion. But the Baton Rouge lawyer said he couldn’t vote for the proposal, saying it clearly runs afoul of court decisions upholding a woman’s right to an abortion.

“Why would you put me in a box to make a choice between supporting my oath to uphold the constitution … and being pro-life?” Claitor said. “The bill as written, in my view, is patently unconstitutional.”

Claitor tried to water down the bill to instead provide information to pregnant women about available services for infants born with disabilities, to discourage abortion based on genetic abnormalities. But his amendment was rejected in an 18-18 vote.

Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, objected to Claitor’s attempt to rewrite the bill.

“Every bill we pass can be challenged. But this bill right here protects the life of unborn children,” she said.

North Dakota and Indiana have enacted similar laws.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said the outright ban violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“There have been attempts at every angle to cut away at the right,” said Peterson, one of a small number of senators who support abortion rights. “You all want to ignore federal law.”

She raised cost concerns about another court dispute over abortion in a state struggling with budget problems.

“We don’t have extra money, FYI, to spend on legal fees,” Peterson said.

After rejecting Claitor’s amendment, the Senate approved the bill on a 29-6 vote. The Senate added an exception for abortions performed to save the life of the mother.

The proposal heads back to the House for consideration of that and other Senate changes.

The bill would penalize the doctor who violates the ban, not the woman. If convicted, a doctor could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and could face malpractice claims and a wrongful death lawsuit.

Senate passage came after abortion rights groups held a rally near the Governor’s Mansion to oppose a package of abortion restriction bills that have received passage from lawmakers.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a ban on the second-trimester abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation, a bill that will force women to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion and a measure that will toughen the criteria for doctors who perform abortions.

On Thursday, the Democratic governor also signed legislation to block Medicaid financing for entities that perform abortions in Louisiana, aimed at discouraging Planned Parenthood from offering abortions at its New Orleans clinic.

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House Bills 1019: www.legis.la.gov

Senate vote: http://1.usa.gov/1WytfZX

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Associated Press reporter Megan Trimble contributed to this report.

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