Anti-choice politicians in Louisiana have put a great deal of effort into pushing abortion restrictions in this year’s legislative session. But one bill that differs from the standard forced ultrasounds, waiting periods, and coerced “listening to heartbeats” is their proposal to make any termination of a pregnancy not performed by a doctor a felony.
SB 330, a bill that creates new designations for “criminal abortion” and “aggravated criminal abortion,” has been deemed necessary by Republican Senator Rick Ward because
“[Abortion is] a surgical procedure, so I mean if you’re having any other type of procedure, whether it be your gall bladder removed, your appendix removed, something like that. You don’t want the office manager at the hospital or doctor’s office facility performing that.”
The bill itself, however, doesn’t just address surgical abortions. Although “aggravated criminal abortion” would be the charge if a surgical abortion is performed by someone other than a doctor, “criminal abortion” would apply to any medication-abortion.
Advocates of SB 330 spoke up in favor of the bill, bringing a woman named Laura Hope Smith into the debate. Senator Ward implied Smith died as a result of an abortion that in part was performed by someone other than a doctor, and that was what killed her. A representative from an “abortion recovery” group agreed.
“There was a woman, her name was Laura Hope Smith that actually died from the abortion. The abortion was by an office manager and the physician, but the office manager was included in that abortion procedure, so the abortion can cause death for the woman also,” says Cindy Collins of the Louisiana Abortion Recovery Alliance.
Collins does admit that Smith wasn’t local, according to the NBC33 News report. What she doesn’t seem to mention is that Smith’s death actually took place five years ago, and that an “office manager” didn’t cause it. After an inquiry into the 2007 incident, the doctor who performed the termination was charged with involuntary manslaughter, to which he plead guilty in 2010 and was ordered to serve six months in jail and have his license revoked.
Smith’s death has been the impetus behind a massive omnibus piece of “informed consent” legislation in Massachusetts, the state in which the abortion was performed — a failed bill that would have enacted waiting periods, forced ultrasounds and a host of other procedures that wouldn’t have saved Smith unless they simply became so inhibiting that she decided against the procedure all together. But although she has become the national face of “abortion kills women” to the anti-choice establishment, she’s the poster child because safe abortions have among the lowest rates of complications of all procedures performed in the United States.
Requests for comment to both Collins and Ward on whether they were aware that the proposed law would have made no difference in the five-year-old case of Smith were unreturned.