Louisiana to outlaw 'partial-birth' abortions

Louisiana could become the first U.S. state to ban a rare and controversial late-term abortion procedure.

A state Senate committee is expected this week to debate two bills that would ban so-called "partial birth" abortions. Doctors call the procedure "dilation and extraction." It involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion.

Other states are expected to consider similar bans.

Supporters of a ban in Louisiana call the procedure barbaric, and said they hope the Supreme Court's ruling is an indication that the nation's high court is moving toward overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that makes abortion legal.

The procedure is rare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center on reproductive health, 1.3 million abortions were performed in 2000 nationwide. Of those, 2,200 were partial-birth procedures, the group said.

The Supreme Court's ruling in April upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law in 2003. The court ruled the federal ban does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. It includes no exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health.

The Louisiana bills narrowly define the procedure that would be banned, and they include a provision allowing the surgery to save the mother's life. If the woman's health is endangered by the pregnancy, but not her life, performing the procedure would be a crime.

The bill would create criminal penalties for doctors who perform the procedure: fines of between $1,000 (744.3 EUR) and $10,000 (7,442.7 EUR), and jail terms of between one and 10 years.