A bill moved to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) desk on Monday that requires hospitals to keep brain-dead pregnant women on life support to protect the fetus, even if the woman's family members object.
House Bill 1274, sponsored by state Rep. Austin Badon (D), specifies that if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant, the doctor must keep her on mechanical support unless her will specifically states that she wants to be taken off life support if she is pregnant. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate last week.
"Do we really want to pull the plug of that healthy baby?" Badon said during debates, according to The Times-Picayune.
The state Senate passed the bill with an amendment that would have given family members the option of taking the woman off life support, but a six-person conference committee of House and Senate members stripped that provision in their final compromise.
A Texas judge ruled earlier this year that a Fort Worth hospital had to remove a pregnant woman from life support in accordance with her husband's wishes.
Marlise Munoz, a 33-year-old paramedic, was about 14 weeks pregnant when she had a pulmonary embolism that left her brain-dead. The hospital refused to take her off life support because of a Texas law that states "a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," prompting Munoz's husband to sue.
"It's very frustrating because we know what our daughter wanted, and we're not about to honor that because of this law," Munoz's mother, Lynne Machado, told ABC News in December.
The judge ruled that the law didn't apply to Munoz because she was legally dead. She was 22 weeks pregnant by the time the hospital took her off life support, and her husband's attorneys said the fetus was "distinctly abnormal," with physical deformities and life-threatening conditions.
Women's rights advocates said that while the Texas law and the new Louisiana bill don't explicitly mention abortion, they fit into a larger pattern of laws passed by state legislatures that restrict reproductive choice. The Louisiana state legislature passed a bill earlier this year that requires women seeking an abortion to be told about the alleged psychological and emotional effects of the procedure, as well as a bill that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in order to operate.
"Laws like this show the sinister underlying belief that anti-choice politicians hold -- that women's sole purpose is to have children, and once we are pregnant, our rights to make our own decisions fly right out the window regardless of what we think, our families think, and what medical experts think," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told The Huffington Post in a statement. "Pregnancies are complicated. Each one is different, and when women suffer unimaginable tragedies in our pregnancies that render us incapable of making our own decisions, those are best left to those who know and love us and to the medical professionals who are charged with our care."
Jindal is expected to sign the bill.