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Women's Place, Part 1


(The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe v. Wade in 1973, yet until the 1974 Constitution, women in Louisiana were legal “chattel”, i.e., property of their fathers or husbands. This is the first of a two-part series looking at “a woman’s place” in Louisiana, more than 40 years later.)

A new lawsuit, filed in federal court July first, is challenging the constitutionality of all seven abortion restrictions passed by the Louisiana Legislature this spring.

It’s not like lawmakers didn’t expect this. In fact, based on what Baton Rouge Rep. Rick Edmonds said during a committee hearing on his abortion restriction bill, the challenge is part of the reason for these measures.

“Although we can’t resolve the constitutionality of every pro-life bill, I think we’ve probably done enough homework to suffice that our language is consistent with language that’s being tested over the country right now,” Edmonds said, adding, “And I think we’re solid.”

But Angela Adkins with the Louisiana chapter of the National Organization for Women believes there’s a deeper purpose to these laws than reducing abortions while challenging Roe v. Wade.

“I believe it’s all based on controlling women,” Adkins told WRKF.

The suit, brought by two of the state’s abortion clinics in co-operation with the Center for Reproductive Health, charges that the new laws are “depriving women of their autonomy and denying them their ability to make decisions as competent adults.”

Some testimony given in favor of the bill tripling the waiting time for an abortion, from 24  hours to 72 hours, seems to support that contention.

“There are hormonal changes and mood swings and over-reacting to certain things,” said Sancha Smith, state director for Concerned Women of America. “And so it’s very important that a woman be given enough time to reflect on that decision.”

Adkins says the 72-hour wait time will more than triple the cost of terminating a pregnancy, thus functioning like a “sin tax”.

“Women have spent five to ten thousand dollars getting an abortion. That leaves poor women, women without means, without a way to have options,” Adkins explains.

There’s also Edmonds’ bill, HB 1019, which prohibits abortion for genetic abnormalities. Adkins refers to that as “the most cruel bill I’ve seen.”

“To deny parents, grieving over a diagnosis – to deny them the rights to determine how to move forward – is unconscionable,” she says.

But Edmonds, who is a church pastor and the former vice president of the Louisiana Family Forum, maintains the bill – which carries criminal penalties – is not targeting women.

“The criminal provisions are for the physicians and not for the patients,” he testified in legislative committee.

And while it wasn’t part of any of the bills included in the new lawsuit, it’s interesting to note the definition of “control” that was initially part of a domestic violence bill this spring.

“Control involves deprivation and manipulation, while controlling the victim’s economic resources, behaviors, and support systems,” Kim Sport, chairwoman of the Louisiana Commission to Prevent Domestic Violence, read from the text of HB 931.

And ultimately, including “control” as part of the behavior qualifying as a pattern of domestic violence, was removed from that bill.