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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana would prohibit abortions based on gender under a bill that won overwhelming, bipartisan passage Thursday from the state House despite questions about whether provisions that allow for lawsuits and damage claims go too far.
Bill sponsor Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, said there was no evidence that sex-selection abortions have happened in Louisiana, instead citing reports of women in Asian nations having the procedures when they discover they would deliver a girl rather than a boy.
But she still described it as critical for Louisiana to enact a law to protect "baby girls."
"At some point we just all have to agree that some things are wrong. Choosing to kill baby girls over baby boys is just wrong," she said.
Nationwide, seven states have laws on the books prohibiting abortion for gender selection, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws across states.
Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, raised several concerns about language in the Louisiana bill that would allow lawsuits and injunction requests against doctors.
The bill would give the father or a grandparent of the aborted fetus the ability to sue the doctor who performed the procedure for damages up to $10,000 if they believe the abortion was based on gender. It also gives the state, a spouse, a parent, a sibling or a health care provider of the woman who had the abortion or who sought an abortion based on gender the ability to seek an injunction against a doctor who violates the prohibition.
Leger also objected to a requirement in Whitney's bill that the doctor performing an abortion must tell a woman the sex of the fetus, if determinable, at the start of the state-mandated, 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. The attempt must be made to determine gender if the pregnancy has reached 10 weeks post-fertilization.
Leger, a lawyer, said that requirement seems to encourage lawsuits because it could force the woman to know the sex of the fetus at the same time it bans an abortion based on gender.
"I think you're actually setting up the litigation," he said.
Whitney denied that was her intention, saying she wanted to give women as much information as possible.
"We are not trying to create any new lawsuits or any frivolous lawsuits," she said.
Despite his concerns, Leger was among 81 members of the House who voted to send the measure to the Senate for consideration, though he called the bill "severely flawed."
"I hope that when it moves forward in the process that it gets some work done to it," he said.
Only two House members — Reps. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, and Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe — voted against it. About 20 lawmakers didn't vote.
The bill's chances of reaching the governor's desk appear strong. Louisiana has repeatedly enacted abortion restrictions over the years with broad support across party lines.
Before House passage, the debate briefly deviated into Whitney's continued votes against tax bills that the House has passed to help balance the budget.
Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, who chairs the House tax committee, asked whether Whitney would support a tax on abortions to discourage people from having them.
"I'm not sure what that has to do with this bill," she said.
Whitney never answered the tax question, and Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, suggested the discussion was improper.
"This is a serious issue. It doesn't matter the author or the co-authors on the bill," Jackson said.
House Bill 701 can be found at www.legis.la.gov
House vote: http://1.usa.gov/1EHyEk6