Louisiana Governor Says He’ll Sign ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill

May 30, 2019 by Dan McCue
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Photo by Marie Constantin.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday that he will sign a strict new abortion law barring the procedure once a heartbeat is detectable — a point that comes before many women realize they are pregnant.

In a written statement, Edwards said “I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years. As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth.”

The governor then pointed to his record, saying he’s expanded access to health care for working Louisianans, passed “sweeping” criminal justice reforms, expanded workplace protections for members of the LGBT community, and fought to raise the minimum wage while also ensuring women are paid the same as men for doing the same work.

“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions,” Edwards said. “As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”

The Louisiana House voted 79-23 Wednesday to ban abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy. More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers voted for the bill, along with all of the Republicans.

The Louisiana legislation does not include an exception for a pregnancy due to rape or incest. It does allow abortions to prevent a woman’s death or if the pregnancy presents “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

It also allows an abortion if the pregnancy is “medically futile.”

The bill defines ‘medically futile’ as meaning that, in reasonable medical judgment, an unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.

With Governor Edwards’ signature, Louisiana will join six other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio — that have recently passed laws banning abortion.

Alabama’s law remains the strictest, imposing a penalty of up to 99 years for doctors who would defy the ban.

All of the previously passed laws are now the subject of legal challenges and have not gone into effect.

On May 24, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi’s fetal heartbeat anti-abortion law from going into effect, saying it infringes on women’s health care rights.

In related news, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Indiana’s law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, but left undisturbed a Seventh Circuit ruling that invalidated a broader measure that would prevent a woman from having an abortion based on a fetus’s gender, race, disability or genetic disorder.

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