Louisiana’s Democratic governor signs abortion ban into law

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisianas Democratic governor signed a ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy Thursday, a move that puts him squarely in line with the leaders of other conservative Southern states while provoking anger from members of his own party.

With his signature, Gov. John Bel Edwards made Louisiana the fifth state to enact a law prohibiting abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, joining Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia. Alabamas gone further, outlawing virtually all abortions .

Louisianas law doesnt contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest.

The bills signing, however, wont limit the states three abortion clinics anytime soon. Louisianas law takes effect only if the law in neighboring Mississippi, which was recently blocked by a judge , is upheld by a federal appeals court.

Edwards, a Catholic running for reelection this year, didnt hold a public bill signing or issue a statement about it, instead announcing his action through his office. He had repeatedly said he intended to sign the measure, citing his faith and saying his views match those of the people in his conservative, religious state.

Not long after hundreds of demonstrators protested abortion bans outside the Louisiana State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge, the state’s Democratic governor signed a ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy. (May 30)

This is an issue Ive been consistent on forever. I am prolife, he said earlier this month on his radio show, when asked about the bill.

Louisiana legislators overwhelmingly supported the ban , with a 7923 House vote and 315 Senate vote.

Lawmakers in conservative states across the nation are striking at the U.S. Supreme Courts 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally. Abortion opponents are pushing new restrictions on the procedure in hopes that a case will make its way to the high court and two new conservative justices appointed by President Donald Trump could help overturn Roe.

None of the abortion bans enacted this year has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges that will delay any enforcement of the prohibitions against the procedure.

Opponents of the socalled heartbeat bills said they would effectively eliminate abortion as an option before many women realize they are pregnant and would violate constitutional privacy protections. Several hundred pinkclad Planned Parenthood supporters filled the Louisiana Capitol to protest the ban ahead of Thursdays bill signing.

The unprecedented and extreme attacks on abortion were seeing across the country, including here in Louisiana, are dangerous to patient health and wellbeing,Petrice SamsAbiodun, with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement.

Louisianas law includes an exception from the abortion ban to prevent the pregnant womans death or a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function — or if the pregnancy is deemed medically futile. But it does not include an exception for a pregnancy caused by rape or incest, drawing criticism that the law forces continued trauma on women who have been victimized.

Under the bill, a doctor who violates the prohibition could face a prison sentence of up to two years, along with medical license revocation.

The abortionrights debates that divide state Capitols across the nation cause fewer ripples in the Louisiana Legislature. It is one of the countrys most staunchly antiabortion states, with a law on the books that immediately outlaws abortion if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

Louisianas latest abortion ban won support from many Democrats and was sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Milkovich. And the governor won some GOP praise for his position.

While Gov. Edwards and I disagree on a lot of things, Im proud that he stands for life, Republican Rep. Julie Emerson said.

Although Edwards is a rarity in the national Democratic Party, he ran as an antiabortion candidate. In his 2015 campaign, Edwards had a prominent TV ad that showed his wife, Donna, describing being advised to have an abortion because of their daughters spinal birth defect. The Edwardses refused, and the ad showed a grownup Samantha.

The bill signing by Edwards, who faces two Republicans on the ballot this fall, is expected to help shore up his position with some voters at home, even if it puts him at odds with national Democratic Party leaders and donors.

Still, the governor faced an outcry of anger on social media from Democrats who objected to his support for the abortion ban.

The chair of Louisianas Democratic Party, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, has been regularly slamming the bill. Shes posted opposition messages on Twitter, including after the bill signing: Embarrassing! Apologies to LA women, particularly for the disrespect to women victimized by rape or incest. But she hasnt directly criticized Edwards by name, and the party is supporting him for reelection.


Senate Bill 184: www.legis.la.gov

Sponsored Content
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com