BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Lawmakers are looking for ways to create roadblocks for Planned Parenthood's construction of a new facility in New Orleans that would provide abortions in addition to other health care services for women.
Planned Parenthood doesn't currently operate an abortion clinic in Louisiana.
Lawmakers are pushing resolutions urging various state and local government agencies to investigate the organization and make sure it is complying with every state and federal regulation on the books, particularly involving abortion.
The Senate passed such a resolution Monday with a 31-6 vote, and the House Health and Welfare Committee advanced a similar measure by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, on Tuesday without objection. Supporters of the resolutions are opposed to abortion.
"I want to make sure that they're not coming in here with an abortion factory," said Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, sponsor of the resolution in the Senate.
Sen. Gerald Long, R-Natchitoches, described the legislation as defining "who I am as a person, that I value life."
The House version of the proposal would urge the state health department to suspend all grants and Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion health services until an investigation is completed reviewing allegations raised in other states about fraudulent billing practices.
The House health committee hearing Tuesday involved a litany of accusations against Planned Parenthood, accusing the nonprofit of overstating the health services provided outside of abortions and claiming that the organization pushes abortions to make more money.
"I think anyone that makes money off of ending someone's life is not something we want in our state," said Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte.
No one spoke against the resolution in the House committee, including representatives of Planned Parenthood, who have described the legislation as threatening access to preventive health care.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, defended the organization during the Senate debate on the resolution, saying Planned Parenthood offered needed information and health services, particularly in low-income communities.
She said the organization, whose clinic is being built in her district, educated women about sexually transmitted diseases and provided health care, such as breast cancer screenings.
"Every day they save lives," Peterson said. "I'm proud of the work they do. I know they would never be involved in breaking the law."
The state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Melissa Flournoy, issued a statement saying the nonprofit's new $4 million health center in New Orleans will offer cancer screenings, contraception, information about birth control, STD testing and treatment and sexual health education. She didn't mention abortion.
"For most women, a visit to Planned Parenthood is their only visit to a medical provider," Flournoy said. "Women in Louisiana don't need a politician telling them where they can get their annual exam, birth control or breast and cervical cancer screenings. They need access to health care."
Senate Concurrent Resolution 57 and House Resolution 105 can be found at http://www.legis.la.gov