A bill banning abortions in Louisiana once a fetal heartbeat is detected secured final passage in the Legislature here Wednesday just days after a federal judge blocked a similar law in Mississippi.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will sign the bill, making Louisiana the fourth state to enact laws banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally considered about six weeks.
“It’s not a difficult decision for me because I’ve let people know for a long time that I’m pro-life,” Edwards said in an interview with USA TODAY before the vote, which was a foregone conclusion.
“It’s consistent with my unblemished pro-life record in my years as a legislator and governor,” he said.
The House vote for passage was 79-23.
Supporters of the bill by Democratic state Sen. John Milkovich were able to fend off an amendment in the House from Democratic Rep. Ted James that would have made exemptions for victims of rape or incest.
Current Louisiana law prevents abortions after 20 weeks.
“We feel like this bill is an important statement about Louisiana’s devotion to the unborn,” Milkovich said. “This bill is a step forward in our efforts to protect life.”
Edwards said he expects the fetal heartbeat law to be challenged in court.
Two previous laws – one from Milkovich banning abortions beyond 15 weeks and another from Democratic Rep. Katrina Jackson requiring doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges – have been blocked while the courts sort them out.
“At some time I know it will take the courts to decide what, if any, of these measures will go into effect,” Edwards said. “But just because laws might be challenged in court doesn’t mean we shouldn’t advance legislation we believe in that speaks to our values.”
Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio are the other states that have approved a fetal heartbeat abortion law, while this spring Alabama passed a law that bans almost all abortions. Missouri’s governor signed a bill banning abortion after eight weeks.
The sweeping momentum of states enacting ever more restrictive abortion laws could set the stage to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
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SOURCE: USA Today; Monroe News Star, Greg Hilburn