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Louisiana congressional candidate gives birth in new campaign ad that supports abortion rights

Democratic candidate for Congress Katie Darling used video footage of her giving birth in a new campaign ad that criticizes Louisiana's near-total abortion ban.
Katie Darling campaign ad
Democratic candidate for Congress Katie Darling used video footage of her giving birth in a new campaign ad that criticizes Louisiana's near-total abortion ban.

A Democratic candidate for Congress is taking aim at Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban in a newly released campaign ad that shows video footage of her giving birth — the latest in a push among Louisiana Democrats hoping to galvanize voters by focusing on abortion rights.

Katie Darling is running against U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, an anti-abortion politician and the House Republican Whip, in Louisiana’s 1st Congressional district, located in the southeastern part of the state and includes Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes as well as parts of Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne parishes.

In a new ad released Monday, a pregnant Darling poses on her family farm in Covington with her husband and daughter. The video then follows Darling as she drives to the hospital, labors in bed, and as her newborn son is placed on her chest for the first time. The ad ends on an image of Darling in a hospital bed, nursing her new son, Ollie, who was born in September.

“These days I worry,” Darling said in a voiceover message, specifically about climate change, public schools “and about Louisiana’s new abortion ban.”

“We should be putting pregnant women at ease, not putting their lives at risk,” Darling said in the ad.

This fall, WWNO and stations across the NPR Network are sharing stories from their communities about abortion access and reproductive rights. Our aim is to give you better insight into the lived reality and implications of these issues for people across the nation. You help WWNO continue to tell the region’s story -- and contribute to the national conversation -- when you make a donation to WWNO.

In a separate ad released Monday, Rep. Royce Duplessis sought to court abortion-rights voters away from Rep. Mandie Landry, who’s made reproductive rights a cornerstone of her political platform. Landry and Duplessis are both running to fill a vacant state Senate seat previously held by Karen Carter Peterson.

In the ad, Duplessis’ mother tells the story of an ancestor who attempted an abortion with a coat hanger over a century ago; the woman survived the abortion, but later died by suicide.

“The women of Louisiana today have no more control over their bodies than my great-grandmother had over hers,” Duplessis said. “And because of that, there will be more trauma, violence and grief. I’m running for Senate to change that.”

Darling’s video carried a similar message. She decided to run for Congress in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I had a high risk pregnancy, and I was scared of what could happen to me if I had a complication,” Darling told New Orleans Public Radio. She said she wanted to show the process of giving birth to highlight “how vulnerable you are, how sensitive it is.”

“People are talking about reproductive rights and abortion in these like theoretical terms, but it's real,” Darling said.

Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban carries exceptions for a substantial risk of life to the pregnant person, but doctors and abortion rights advocates say the law will hurt women’s health.

Darling has made reproductive rights a cornerstone of her campaign messaging, along with improving public education and combating the impact of severe storms fueled by climate change.

“The moment is so important that we gather our energy and do something about this right now, that we fight right now to regain our reproductive rights,” Darling said.

Scalise supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and has repeatedly voted for anti-abortion legislation.

In 2011 and 2009, Scalise co-sponsored federal “personhood” bills that would have made every fertilized egg in the U.S. a legal human being, with expansive repercussions for criminalizing pregnancy, fertility treatments and potentially birth control.

Both bills carried similar language to a Louisiana bill that could have seen women charged with murder for abortions, but was deemed too extreme by anti-abortion politicians.

Darling, who is running against one of the most well-funded incumbents in Congress, hasn't filed a campaign finance report yet with the Federal Election Commission. It's unclear whether the Darling campaign intends to buy airtime on television to run the provocative campaign ad.

Both ads come after a viral abortion-rights political ad out of Texas this summer, in which a doctor called Gov. Greg Abbott on a hotline to ask his permission before performing an abortion.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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