NBC Sees Controversy in Louisiana Abortion Bill With 'Broad Bipartisan Support'

At the top of Saturday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt proclaimed: "Abortion battleground. The newest state to impose tougher requirements on doctors who perform the procedure. Protecting women or denying them access?" In another tease of the upcoming story minutes later, Holt warned: "...the battle over abortion and a controversial new law about to take effect." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

In the report that followed, correspondent Kristen Welker revealed the supposed threat to the abortion agenda: "The legislation requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges to a hospital within thirty miles of where the procedure takes place. That change could force three of the state's five abortion clinics to close."

Welker then introduced the political force behind the plan: "Democratic state representative Katrina Jackson co-authored the legislation, which passed with broad bipartisan support and Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has vowed to sign." Jackson explained: "This legislation is about the health and safety of women....Women deserve to be safe in whatever choice they make and this legislation ensures that."

Despite the "broad bipartisan support" for the legislation evidenced by it being co-authored by a Democratic lawmaker, Welker still touted arguments from the abortion industry: "Ellie Schilling, who advises the state's clinics, argues in the rare case that a woman experiences complications, hospitals are required to admit that patient regardless of her doctor's admitting status."

Soundbites ran of Schilling declaring: "We're seeing a lot of laws pass that are thinly-disguised attempts to limit access....It's intent is simply to close clinics and to restrict, if not eliminate, a constitutional right to access."

Welker used Schilling's talking points to go after Jackson: "Is this really about the safety of women or is it about rolling back Roe v. Wade?"

At no point did Welker cite women's health and safety concerns to challenge Schilling's claims.

As Jackson defended the measure against left-wing conspiracy theories, Welker announced: "In a statement, Planned Parenthood urges Governor Jindal to veto the bill, writing, 'Women in a vast stretch of this country are in real danger of losing the ability to access legal abortion safely.'"

Another soundbite ran of Schilling: "When access is so limited, then the reality is that it forces women back into a pre-Roe vs. Wade state, where basically they will be forced to seek illegal, unsafe methods."

Jackson countered: "I would rather see a female drive five hours to Shreveport to have the care and treatment that she deserves."

Welker wrapped up the report by previewing legal fights ahead: "Opponents of the law say they're planning legal challenges, which could mean a hearing here at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court."

While popular legislation regulating abortion in Louisiana is a controversy worthy of national attention, NBC has failed to provide similar coverage to a proposed law in New York to expand late-term abortions that has failed to even get out of a state senate committee due to its controversial nature.


Here is a full transcript of Welker's May 24 report:

6:30 PM ET TEASE:

LESTER HOLT: Abortion battleground. The newest state to impose tougher requirements on doctors who perform the procedure. Protecting women or denying them access?

6:45 PM ET TEASE:

HOLT: When NBC Nightly News continues on this Saturday night, the battle over abortion and a controversial new law about to take effect.

6:47 PM ET SEGMENT:

HOLT: We're back with a new chapter in the battle over abortion. This week, the Louisiana state legislature passed a bill that would place new restrictions on doctors who perform abortions and could force some of the state's clinics that perform abortions to close. It's similar to a law that took effect in Texas last year and caused more than a dozen clinics to close there. We get more on this tonight from NBC's Kristen Welker.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It feels like we're taking steps back as opposed to progressing.

KRISTEN WELKER: Five years ago this woman had a legal abortion at a Louisiana clinic. She wants to remain anonymous but is now speaking out against a law passed this week by the state legislature.

WOMAN: I was angry. I was, "How dare you take that decision or make that decision for me."

WELKER: The legislation requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges to a hospital within thirty miles of where the procedure takes place. That change could force three of the state's five abortion clinics to close.

KATRINA JACKSON: This legislation is about the health and safety of women.

WELKER: Democratic state representative Katrina Jackson co-authored the legislation, which passed with broad bipartisan support and Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has vowed to sign.

JACKSON: Women deserve to be safe in whatever choice they make and this legislation ensures that.

ELLIE SCHILLING: We're seeing a lot of laws pass that are thinly-disguised attempts to limit access.

WELKER: Ellie Schilling, who advises the state's clinics, argues in the rare case that a woman experiences complications, hospitals are required to admit that patient regardless of her doctor's admitting status.

SCHILLING: It's intent is simply to close clinics and to restrict, if not eliminate, a constitutional right to access.

WELKER: Is this really about the safety of women or is it about rolling back Roe v. Wade?

JACKSON: It's definitely about the safety of women. It's very important for continuity of care that woman that experience complications from abortion procedures, physicians are able to see them.

WELKER: Similar laws have already passed in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. In a statement, Planned Parenthood urges Governor Jindal to veto the bill, writing, "Women in a vast stretch of this country are in real danger of losing the ability to access legal abortion safely."

SCHILLING: When access is so limited, then the reality is that it forces women back into a pre-Roe vs. Wade state, where basically they will be forced to seek illegal, unsafe methods.

JACKSON: I would rather see a female drive five hours to Shreveport to have the care and treatment that she deserves.

WELKER: Opponents of the law say they're planning legal challenges, which could mean a hearing here at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. Kristen Welker, NBC News, New Orleans.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC