Louisiana Lawmakers Pass Bill to Keep Pregnant Women on Mechanical Support Against Their Wishes

The Louisiana legislature passed a bill that requires physicians to keep brain-dead women who are pregnant on mechanical support if the physician determines there is a chance the fetus is viable.

HB 1274, sponsored by Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), would invalidate advance directives when a patient is pregnant and prohibit a family from directing physicians to remove mechanical support from a brain-dead pregnant woman.

Arguing in support of the bill, Badon said: “Do we really want to pull the plug of that healthy baby?” 

The bill is similar to a Texas law, which led to a lawsuit filed by Erick Munoz against a hospital that said it had no choice but to keep his wife, Marlise, who had been declared brain-dead, on mechanical support to continue her pregnancy, despite her end-of-life directives and family’s wishes. The case drew national attention and debate over the role state government should play in becoming involved in the end-of-life decisions of pregnant women.

Julie Schwam Harris, who testified during the Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearing, told RH Reality Check that the bill was a government overreach into the lives of families. Harris feels that during the legislative process lawmakers had a “myopic” focus on the fetus, and not on the women and their families.

“They’re making all these godlike decisions for people who should be making this decision on their own for their loved one,” said Harris.

Unlike other legislation dealing with reproductive health that sailed through both chambers without significant changes this legislative session, HB 1274 was successfully amended in the senate and required a conference committee to reconcile the house and senate versions.

During the senate floor debate, Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) proposed an amendment to ensure the ultimate power over life and death decisions remained with family members. The amendment said that nothing in the bill “shall be interpreted to interfere with the rights of a spouse, children, parents, or siblings of a woman to make end of life decisions.” Morrell’s amendment passed 20 to 18, and the full senate passed the amended bill 36 to 2.

However, the conference committee rejected Morrell’s amendment, but made changes to limit the scope of the proposed law, which in its original form would have applied to all pregnant women on mechanical support.

In the final version of the bill, a woman must be at least 20 weeks pregnant for the proposed law to apply, which is after the period when she can legally obtain an abortion in the state, and it does not apply to any woman who has previously specified a “do not resuscitate” while pregnant instruction in a will.

The final version of the bill was passed by both the house and senate Monday, with votes of 87 to 1 and 31 to 2, respectively. The legislation now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk, and he is expected to sign it into law.

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  • fiona64

    What these idiots don’t seem to understand is that when the woman is braindead, her body starts to decompose … which means here *is no ‘healthy baby.’

    Where are the similar demands for men to be forced organ donors? Because, at the end of the day, this is exactly what these MCPs are doing to women.

    I’m so sick of politicians practicing medicine without a license.

  • Ella Warnock

    And they call pro-choicers the “culture of death.”

  • JDYoung

    The moment the family requests removal from life support their role in paying for hospital services should end and ALL the cost for anything that is done against their wishes should be the sole responsibility of the LA Legislature.

    • shy guy

      This at the very least…….Sadly it does not address the true problem of misogyny and the treatment of women as walking incubators by the LA Legislature.

      It does not surprise me though since the fanatical right/evangelicals know they have no real hope of putting women back under the umbrella of not quite slaves but “property” their religion compels them to.

      No the new almost equally disgusting tactic seems to be women are begrudgingly people unless they become or could be pregnant then their status changes to that of a not quite a person anymore but a sorta person that happens to be a baby factory…..and the bible tells them the baby factory its far more important than their rights and freedoms as individual human beings

  • Minta Keyes

    Enacted by the party that claims government is too intrusive in daily life? The death of a pregnant woman is a horrible family tragedy. How much per week is it expected to cost to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support? If the woman is brain-dead, do we expect her insurance company to pay the bills? Is the family expected to pay the bills, even if they oppose this intervention? Will the state pay the bills? Who pays for the long-term care of the child if he or she is significantly disabled?

    • Betty Eyer

      Those are all excellent questions which the gynoticians in the LA legislature failed to answer.

  • J.D.

    It is an obscenity when the State decrees that you still must breed for the State’s sake and cannot duck that obligation EVEN WHEN YOU ARE DEAD. This ghoulish notion of requiring life-support for wombs, even when the woman housing said womb has previously expressed her legal right declining such treatment, is the ultimate in reducing her to nothing more than a breeding vessel.

    That this law would do so AND would do so also against express wishes of the next-of-kin/medical proxy is something that should terrify us all. What other medical choices does the state then get to override for us? If they can hijack a dead woman’s womb, can they not steal your blood, your bones, any extraneous organ they demand in the interest of ‘saving lives’? Talk about your government overreach.

    Dead is dead. Brain dead is dead. Let the dead (and their unborn offspring) rest in peace, Louisiana.

    • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

      Well spoken. This is sick beyond words.

  • Margaret Whitestone

    More proof that women are mere broodsows to antichoice people.

  • lou4

    On April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court banned certain abortions which do not allow an exception when a woman’s life is in danger after more than thirty years of Supreme Court rulings that required such an exception. That Supreme Court decision undermines the right of every American to make personal decisions about their own health care, such as whether or not to have a vasectomy or reject a standard treatment for an alternative one.

    Since the precedent has been set that our government restricts the medical choices of women, in the interest of equality and to serve the public interest, it could require men to donate blood or a kidney to save “walking-around persons.”

    The government could, also, ban vasectomies to prevent a decline in population or require vasectomies to limit population growth. Eugenic sterilization laws led to the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 of the mentally ill, criminals and other Americans by 1979 “to prevent certain degenerate human stock from reproducing its kind,” so there’s a history of such governmental intrusion.

    The Medical Ethics of “First, do no harm” is a “guiding principle for physicians that whatever the intervention or procedure, the patient’s well-being is the primary consideration.” The Supreme Court’s decision overturned that long-standing, commonsense, humane principle.

    Other questions arise: Is the woman considered to be legally dead so the patient is the fetus, who is now a ward of the state with the state responsible for its medical care before and after it’s born?

  • Kris Weibel

    OMG how disgusting. just a bunch of boys playing Gynotician.

  • NYtoLA

    F**k these men. How dare they determine what a woman wants. I say sterilize every damn man who thinks he’s God. This whole thing is absolutely despicable and disgustingly misogynistic. Ban Viagra, Ban Cialis, Ban penis extensions. Force men to have invasive needles inserted through the penis for prostate testing…..WITHOUT ANY ANESTHESIA! F**k these animalistic men.

  • NYtoLA

    Get out and vote BLUE (Democrats) in this November midterm election. VERY IMPORTANT!!! Wipe out the teapubliKKKlan extremist lunatics as fast as we can for a kinder, more compassionate, inclusive, fairer, decent, America!!