Louisiana’s Democratic governor signs abortion ban into law

  • Nearly three decades ago, when Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child, a doctor discovered their daughter had spina bifida and encouraged an abortion. The Edwardses refused. Edwards, who has repeatedly bucked national party leaders on abortion rights, is about to do it again. He’s ready to sign legislation that would ban the procedure as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, when the bill reaches his desk. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s 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. Alabama’s gone further, outlawing virtually all abortions .

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Louisiana’s law doesn’t contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest.

The bill’s signing, however, won’t limit the state’s three abortion clinics anytime soon. Louisiana’s 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, didn’t 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.

“This is an issue I’ve been consistent on forever. I am pro-life,” he said earlier this month on his radio show, when asked about the bill.

Louisiana legislators overwhelmingly supported the ban , with a 79-23 House vote and 31-5 Senate vote.

Lawmakers in conservative states across the nation are striking at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 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 so-called 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 pink-clad Planned Parenthood supporters filled the Louisiana Capitol to protest the ban ahead of Thursday’s bill signing.

“The unprecedented and extreme attacks on abortion we’re seeing across the country, including here in Louisiana, are dangerous to patient health and wellbeing,” Petrice Sams-Abiodun, with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement.

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Louisiana’s law includes an exception from the abortion ban to prevent the pregnant woman’s 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.