A bill that would ban abortions in Louisiana once a fetal heartbeat has been detected is one step closer to final passage, after the House Health and Welfare committee advanced the bill without objection Wednesday.
“We do think this is an important blow against the abortion industry and in defense of the unborn,” said Senator John Milkovich (D-Shreveport), the bill's author.
Senator Milkovich pointed to a handful of other states—Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky among them— that have passed fetal heartbeat bills similar to the one Louisiana lawmakers are considering.
The bill was approved just one day after the Alabama state legislature passed the nation’s strictest abortion legislation, preventing all abortions unless the mother’s health is at risk.
“States from across the nation are saying we are no longer going to devalue life,” said Milkovich.
Louisiana’s bill is tied to a similar measure in Mississippi that’s currently being challenged in federal court. Only if that law is ruled constitutional would Louisiana’s take effect.
But opponents, like Michelle Erenberg with pro-choice group Lift Louisiana, say that’s unlikely.
“This legislature’s attempt to inoculate itself from legal challenge by tying this bill to the outcome of a legal challenge in another state acknowledges that this [bill] would be challenged in court and likely struck down. So what are we even doing here?” Erenberg questioned.
Louisiana currently prohibits abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But over time, the Legislature has passed a number of bills that would further limit access to the procedure, many of which are caught up in litigation. The state is currently involved in five lawsuits that challenge dozens of abortion restrictions.
The fetal heartbeat measure has already been approved by the Senate. The next stop is the House floor. If approved, the bill would head to Governor John Bel Edwards, who has indicated he’d sign it into law.