Bobby Jindal’s Embarrassing Abortion Obsession
Bobby Jindal has been the governor of Louisiana for seven years. For the last six, his state has ranked as the most pro-life in the country by Americans United for Life. That overlap is not a coincidence, as candidate Jindal will happily remind you.
Jindal has been using his pro-life credentials as a selling point for his presidential bid in an attempt to appeal to an evangelical base. Once hailed as a Republican wunderkind, Jindal is now barely registering in Republican primary polls and he will vacate the governor’s mansion next January on the tail end of low approval ratings. But Jindal seems determined to use his remaining time in office to keep his anti-abortion streak going.
The governor, who is trying to defund Planned Parenthood through creative means, will also leave behind what may be the most shocking record in the history of the abortion debate.
Two weeks ago, the Jindal administration announced a new plan to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in Louisiana by claiming that the women’s health organization violated the federal False Claims Act, citing a 2013 Texas case between Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and a whistleblower who had made allegations of overbilling. That case ended in a settlement, which Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said was not “an admission of liability.”
This new defunding attempt comes on the heels of Jindal’s early August cancellation of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract, which has faced significant obstacles after the women’s health organization filed for an injunction. The federal government had already warned that the move could be illegal.
As a result of the injunction, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) provided a federal judge with a list of 2,000 health-care providers that could supposedly take the place of the state’s Planned Parenthood centers. After the incredulous judge pointed out that the list of physicians included dentists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and cosmetic surgeons, the DHH narrowed it down to 29.
Now, as The Times-Picayune reports, Jindal will abandon that approach and try the allegations of a False Claims Act violation instead.
Jindal’s efforts are ostensibly motivated by the undercover video campaign against Planned Parenthood conducted by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion organization alleging that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donation. But neither of Planned Parenthood’s locations in Louisiana practice fetal tissue donation nor do they perform abortions. They do, however, provide a wide range of women’s health services including cancer screenings, contraception, as well as HIV and STI testing.
For Jindal, this last-ditch defunding push is the latest—and perhaps the last—in a long line of extreme anti-abortion moves that have defined his administration.
In 2010, two years into his governorship, Jindal signed a handful of bills opting Louisiana out of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for abortion coverage and denying malpractice insurance to physicians who provide elective abortions. But the most controversial piece of 2010 legislation required Louisiana women to receive an ultrasound two hours before an abortion with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Louisiana is now one of only three states to have such a requirement.
In 2011, Jindal signed HB 636, now called the “Women’s Right to Know Act.” According to the DHH website, this law requires signs notifying women of “agencies [that] are willing to help you carry your child to term” to be posted in “each patient admission area, waiting room, and patient consulting room.” The law also requires abortion providers to notify any woman who schedules an abortion that the DHH has an online list of “abortion alternatives.” Among these listed alternatives are adoption agencies and several “crisis pregnancy centers”—organizations that seek to dissuade women from seeking abortions and that often have religious affiliations.
Louisiana’s ultrasound requirement became even more stringent in June 2012 when Jindal signed another law requiring physicians to perform the mandatory ultrasound a full 24 hours in advance and to “make audible the fetal heartbeat” for the patient. Women can decline to hear the heartbeat if they wish but the law also mandated that physicians orally describe the ultrasound to the patient. Previously, under the 2010 law, women were simply offered the opportunity to hear the oral description but now they are legally required to do so unless they are pregnant “due to an act of rape or incest.” Even then, women must certify that they have filed a corresponding report of rape or incest with law enforcement in order to opt out.
That same month, Jindal signed legislation prohibiting abortion at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest—a law similar to the 20-week ban Wisconsin governor and fellow Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker approved this July. Now, a Louisiana woman can only seek an abortion after 20 weeks if the pregnancy poses a “serious risk” to “major bodily function” or if the fetus has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal “congenital or chromosomal anomaly.”
In 2014, Jindal signed HB 388, which required physicians to obtain “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic. The law would have closed several of the state’s five abortion providers but enforcement was blocked and it is being challenged in federal court.
Throughout his tenure, Jindal has matched his legislative record with inflammatory rhetoric, comparing abortion to slavery in his 2010 autobiography and comparing women receiving information about abortion to criminals being read their Miranda rights the next year.
But Jindal’s most questionable statement may be one of his more boilerplate. Back in 2011, when Jindal signed HB 636, he said, “We are confident that the more [women] know, the more they’ll choose life and alternatives to abortion.”
That confidence seems to have been ill placed. Despite Jindal’s best efforts, Louisiana is one of only two states in the country in which the number of abortions has actually increased between 2010 and 2014—from 8,772 to 9,932—according to a June AP survey.
In the meantime, Louisiana has been struggling with remarkably high rates of sexually transmitted infections. According to CDC statistics, Louisiana also ranked second among all 50 states in rates of gonorrheal infection, third in rates of syphilis, and fourth in chlamydial infections in 2012. In 2011, the state was 11th in number of HIV diagnoses (PDF). The New Orleans metropolitan area ranked second in new HIV diagnoses in 2013. Neither sex nor HIV education are required in Louisiana and, when comprehensive sex education legislation was proposed in Orleans Parish this April, a spokesperson for the Jindal administration said, “We have concerns with the legislation and think these decisions are typically best left to parents.”
This is what Jindal will leave behind: a state awash in sexually transmitted infections where abortions have actually gone up, not down. The governor may not be able to parlay his record into a presidency, but he can, at least, win one more year as the most pro-life state in the country.