- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana appears unlikely to add a new legal restriction banning gender-based “sex-selection” abortions.

The House-backed proposal stalled Tuesday in a Senate judiciary committee, on a 2-2 vote that keeps the bill stuck in committee. Bill sponsor Rep. Lenar Whitney, a Houma Republican, said she’s not sure if she’ll try to get another hearing.

Whitney acknowledged there was no evidence that abortions based on gender have happened in Louisiana. She said putting the provision on the books would help ensure they don’t, calling it “the most violent form of discrimination against women.”

“It’s time to take a stand for the women, born and unborn, because every life is valuable,” said Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum.

The House overwhelmingly supported the bill, with an 84-2 vote earlier this month.

Supporters said eight other states have similar laws on the books. But critics said the proposed Louisiana law would go much further, enacting broad provisions for lawsuits and damage claims that don’t exist in other states’ laws.

Lawyer Ellie Schilling, who represents several of Louisiana’s abortion clinics, said the provisions are aimed at stoking fear among people who work at the clinics and lessening abortion access. She said the proposal would encourage “meritless lawsuits.”

The Senate committee chairman, J.P. Morrell, objected to a requirement in Whitney’s bill that the doctor performing an abortion must tell a woman the sex of the fetus, if determinable, at the start of the state-mandated, 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. The attempt must be made to determine gender if the pregnancy has reached 10 weeks post-fertilization.

“You force that knowledge upon them and then use that knowledge as the basis of a (lawsuit) claim,” said Morrell, D-New Orleans, who voted against the bill.

Other critics of the bill took issue with Whitney’s previous testimony when she cited reports of women in Asian nations having the procedures when they discover they would deliver a girl rather than a boy.

Son Ah Yun, deputy director of programs and policy for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, called those “ugly and dangerous stereotypes” that she said are “patently false.”

Before the committee deadlocked on the proposal, Morrell and Sen. Karen Carter Peterson bristled at Whitney’s closing argument: “If you’re willing to kill baby girls, you should vote no. If you’re not, it should be an easy yes vote.”

“I’m going to vote no, but do I look like a murderer?” asked Peterson, D-New Orleans. “Do you believe that? I’m voting to kill little girls?”

Whitney replied: “You’d be voting not to protect the life of an innocent baby girl just because of her sex.”

Morrell and Peterson voted against the bill. Sens. Norby Chabert, R-Houma; and Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, voted for the bill. Three committee members were absent.

Morrell said he would seek a study to determine whether women are having sex-selection abortions in Louisiana. Rather than push for another hearing on her bill, Whitney said: “We may just go ahead with this study.”

___

Online:

House Bill 701: www.legis.la.gov


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