BATON ROUGE — The termination of pregnancy by illegal interference and feticide may soon become “crimes of violence” under Louisiana state law.
A House panel approved a bill 8-4 on Tuesday to prohibit the use of physical force or threats of violence against “the person or property” of a pregnant woman with the intent to compel her to undergo an abortion against her will.
“A former abortion clinic security guard testified before our Legislature that the greatest threat to women at abortion clinics were the men that accompanied them,” said Alex Seghers of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, an affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee.
Under proposed law, an individual could face up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine for coercing an abortion. By approving the bill, the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee sent it to the House floor.
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, argued that if a person threatens to do someone bodily harm, there are already laws that cover it.
“How do you define and how do you prove that a person threatened someone to do bodily harm because they were pregnant?” asked Marcelle.
“If someone tells me they are going to kill me, that’s a crime already,” she added.
Under the bill, coercion is not simply a verbal effort to persuade a woman to abort. The coercion would have to be threats of violence.
“The pressure can escalate for those that continue to resist and may place a woman at a higher risk of being attacked,” Seghers said. “Even if they choose to abort, that resistance and intense pressure causes even more intense trauma for them, leading to a higher risk of suicide.”
Committee members on Tuesday also debated the term “property” in the bill.