Child sex abusers could face surgical castration under Louisiana bill

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - People who commit sex crimes against children in Louisiana could be forced to undergo surgical castration under legislation approved by state lawmakers, a measure that would appear to be the first of its kind in the United States if the governor signs it into law.

The bill, which was overwhelmingly passed by the state legislature on Monday, would permit judges to order surgical castration for defendants convicted of certain aggravated sex crimes, such as rape, against children under the age of 13. It will now go before Governor Jeff Landry, a Republican.

Landry's office did not immediately respond when asked whether he intends to sign the legislation.

A handful of states, including Louisiana, California and Texas, already have laws that give judges the power to order chemical castration in some cases, a less intrusive measure that involves taking hormone-blocking medication.

But Louisiana would be the first state to allow judges to impose surgical castration as a penalty, according to the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL), an advocacy group that opposed the bill.

The bill requires a determination from a court-appointed medical expert that a defendant is an "appropriate candidate for surgery" before a judge can order the procedure.

Opponents argue the punishment is cruel and note that surgical castration, unlike chemical castration, is irreversible.

"It is, at best, ineffective and, at worst, barbaric," Sandy Rozek, a spokesperson for NARSOL, said in a statement.

While the legislation drew most of its support from Republicans, who dominate the Louisiana legislature, it was introduced by Senator Regina Barrow, a Democrat.

"I want to make sure that our kids are safe," she said at a hearing last month.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)