Louisiana’s Abortion Ban is Endorsed by Extremists

Louisiana lawmakers are vying to make the Pelican State one of more than a dozen states that ban abortion at as early as six weeks—well before many women even know they’re pregnant—and they’re relying on the arguments of anti-abortion extremists to make it happen.

(NARAL Pro-Choice America / Creative Commons)

The Louisiana state Senate judiciary committee held a hearing on a “heartbeat bill” earlier this month, which it ultimately voted to advance to the Senate floor. This week, the House Health and Welfare Committee also heard testimony before voting unanimously to advance the bill—and in the midst of the supporters and opponents who converged at the Capitol to give testimony was anti-abortion extremist Jennifer McCoy, who lawmakers and anti-abortion groups apparently saw fit to represent their views on the floor of the state legislature.

McCoy, a member of the Wichita-based anti-abortion extremist organization Army of God, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after conspiring to burn down two Virginia abortion clinics in 1996. McCoy maintained close ties with the group throughout her sentence. Since her release, she has become involved with even more, including Operation Rescue—an organization that mounted a dangerous harassment campaign against the late abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in his church by self-proclaimed OR participant Scott Roeder in 2009.

Roeder echoed claims by McCoy that she knew a young woman who changed her mind about having an abortion after the death of Dr. Tiller, but there is no evidence that any woman decided not to have an abortion as a result of the murder. This runs parallel with the award-winning Spring 2010 coverage of McCoy in Ms., which exposed her history of editorializing and embellishing near-abortion stories to further her anti-abortion agenda. (In the piece, reporter Amanda Robb refers to McCoy as a “flatterer and even a fabulist.”)

McCoy was invited by a state Senator to testify before the Judiciary Committee. Watching her speak on the floor—despite her habit of apparent falsifications and the fact that she does not live in Louisiana—left reproductive rights advocates across the country shocked.

“It is nothing short of stunning that state legislators in support of this bill would get in bed with violent anti-abortion extremists for a state law,” duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project, told Ms. “It’s a new low.”

In a statement, the New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF) called McCoy’s testimony before the Senate committee “an extension of [lawmakers’] inappropriate and dangerous campaign to control the bodies of Louisiana women.” NOAF president Amy Irvin called McCoy a “domestic terrorist.”

During the Senate committee hearing, Irvin pointed out the disproportional effect that “low-income women, women of color, rural women and women who are abused or assaulted” will experience if the heartbeat bill is passed. “Louisianans seeking abortion deserve better from lawmakers,” Irvin declared. “We trust Louisianans to carefully consider their options and obtain the care they need. If you vote to ban abortion before most women know they are pregnant, you are putting political ideology over sensible public health and respect for women.”

Irvin urged lawmakers to consider women’s voices as they move toward a vote on the legislation. “As this bill moves through the Louisiana Senate,” she said to the panel of lawmakers at the hearing, “we call on you and your colleagues to trust your constituents—to trust Louisiana women.”

Irvin’s call to arms was a much-needed reminder of the threat anti-abortion laws—and the extremists who endorse them—pose to women’s lives. If the company Louisiana’s lawmakers keep is any indication, it was one they sorely needed to hear.


Ashley LeCroy is an editorial intern for Ms. and a passionate self-identified feminist who aims both to advocate and make space for the world's most marginalized communities. Ashley is currently pursuing a dual degree in Political Science and English with a minor in Anthropology at UCLA—where she writes for FEM, the student-run feminist news magazine, and works on the Art Series staff for the Cultural Affairs Commission.