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Statehouse Review: Louisiana's Six-Week Abortion Ban

Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service
Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, and Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, commented on the successful passage of the 'fetal heartbeat' bill outside the State Capitol after the House votes on May 29.

The Louisiana legislature debated a total of seven bills dealing with the issue of abortion during its 2019 session. The bill that got the most attention would make abortion illegal after about six weeks — before many women know they’re pregnant.

Before the measure cleared final approval, there was passionate debate on the House floor. Democratic Representative Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) offered an amendment that would provide an exception for rape or incest.

“I am not man enough to tell a woman who’s had her insides ripped apart and been raped - I’m not man enough to tell that woman, 'You know what? Live with it,'” James said as he presented his amendment.

Republican Representative Alan Seabaugh (R-Caddo) opposed that amendment, saying it punishes the unborn child. “Look, if you want to bring legislation allowing the mother — the victim of rape — to choose to execute the rapist, I’m on board,” Seabaugh said. “I think that’s a good amendment.”

After receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, the bill was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. But it will not go into effect unless a similar law in Mississippi is upheld by the court.

Pearson Cross is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UL Lafayette. He says Edwards' support of the legislation will impact his standing in the Democratic party.

“Nationally, this has killed his career,” Cross says. “Edwards has no chance for any position nationally, I don’t think, at least in a Democratic Administration, just because he supported one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States.”

But, Cross says, Edwards — who defends his anti-abortion stance — may have shored up his support among conservatives in the state. “It perhaps has made him much more likely to be re-elected in 2019.”

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