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Louisiana Gov. Jindal signs legislation to inform pregnant women about their rights and options

This post was written by AUL Legal Fellow Katie Croghan.

In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.” – Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, June 29, 1992, Supreme Court

On July 6, 2011 Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, signed into law House Bill 636 to more fully inform women of their rights before they decide to receive an abortion.

The new law requires that abortion providers display signs providing women with certain information. Some of that information includes: 1) that a woman should not be coerced into receiving abortion, 2) that fathers must pay child support if the child is born, and 3) that there are a number of alternatives to abortion. The signs will include references to a website which will highlight aid available to pregnant women. The website will list references to prenatal and postnatal health care facilities, adoption services, ultrasound services, and other medical and legal support which is available. The goal of these signs is to ensure that women have a full understanding of their options before they undergo an abortion.

Some pro-abortion proponents have criticized this legislation by calling it “anti-choice” because they believe it constitutes an obstacle to abortion. These people miss the point. This vital law will help ensure that abortions are only performed with the woman’s fully informed consent.

More important though, is that the law is a step towards eliminating all forms of coercion from the decisions of pregnant women. It is designed to make sure that women have all the knowledge necessary to actually make a choice. By opposing a law designed to give women as much information as possible, these “pro-choice” groups reveal themselves to actually be anti-choice, pro-abortion, and anti-women.

Coercion is a real issue for many women who go to abortion clinics and, unlike the Louisiana law, is something that is truly “anti-choice.” Boy-friends, family, employers and many others can all have a serious and harmful influence on a women’s decision to have an abortion. A 2004 study found that 64% of the women who received abortions had felt pressured by others. Compounding this issue is that women who eventually receive abortions may be unaware of all the options available to them. Some of these women feel that they have no other choice and, later, intensely lament their decision.

By ensuring that all women who go to abortion providers fully understand their options and their legal rights, the law will help protect pregnant women from coercion and forced abortion. Louisiana, Governor Jindal, the bill’s ninety-five co-authors, and all those who supported this legislation recognize that women should never feel pressured into choosing a procedure that ends a life.

The Governor also understands how important a real understanding of options, especially those which do not embrace abortion, is to a pregnant woman and to their unborn children. As he signed the legislation into law Governor Jindal said “Women deserve to know their legal rights and the protections already afforded to them under the law…We are confident that the more they know, the more they’ll choose life and alternatives to abortion.”

Though the law will not end all coerced abortions, we are confident that Louisiana is on the right track. We applaud the Governor and those in Louisiana for informing women about their rights.