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Debate on a bill that could imprison women who have abortions

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A bill slated for debate Thursday at the Louisiana House would make women who have abortions subject to criminal prosecution and jail time — a stance that has drawn opposition from the anti-abortion governor of the state. Louisiana and groups such as Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Republican Rep. Danny McCormick is pushing the bill despite a crescendo of opposition from traditional proponents of abortion rights allies, for now, with some opponents of legal abortion.

“To suggest that a woman would be jailed for an abortion is just plain nonsense,” Governor John Bel Edwards, a devout Catholic and Democrat who has long split with his party on the abortion issue, said Wednesday.

“Our long-standing policy is that women vulnerable to abortion should not be treated like criminals,” Louisiana Right to Life said in a statement.

McCormick disagrees, saying a woman who has an abortion should be in the same legal position as a woman who takes the life of a child after birth. “When I give equal protection to the unborn child, that is the possibility,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.

McCormick’s bill has come under scrutiny in light of the leak last week of a draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court indicating that the High Court is preparing to strike down decisions confirming a constitutional right to abortion. But it was introduced in March, on the legal theory that it could end abortion regardless of what any court does.

In addition to rewriting homicide laws to include abortion, it states that any federal law, regulation, or court order permitting abortion is void, and that any judge who blocks enforcement of the bill’s provisions could be dismissed.

Members of the committee that introduced the bill last week expressed doubts about its constitutionality. Edwards called it “patently unconstitutional” on Wednesday.

Edwards joined in critics of the bill, saying it criminalizes certain types of contraception and parts of the in vitro fertilization process. McCormick said Thursday that forms of birth control that don’t destroy a fertilized egg aren’t affected by the law. And he disputes the claim by Edwards and others that the bill would criminalize certain aspects of in vitro fertilization, pointing to state law that already grants rights to “and the in vitro fertilized human egg.” vitro”.

Anti-abortion legislation usually passes easily through the Louisiana Legislature, but outright opposition to the bill from some anti-abortion stalwarts could bolster attempts to derail the measure or heavily change it.

Louisiana already has laws in place criminalizing abortion, including a ‘trigger law’ guaranteeing it will be a crime if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision establishing the right to abortion . The statutes appear to exempt women from prosecution, although some abortion rights advocates have suggested they need to be tightened.

McCormick said existing laws are insufficient to give fetuses equal protection under the law. “It’s a debate we need to have in Louisiana,” he said. “There are good people on both sides of the debate.”