A bill that would ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected passed the Louisiana House Wednesday with support from the state’s Democratic governor, who says he will buck his party’s official position and sign it into law.
The bill, SB 184, passed the House 79-23, less than a month after it sailed through the Senate, 31-5.
Unlike other states where abortion restrictions divide Republicans and Democrats, Louisiana’s bill has bipartisan support. A Democrat, state Sen. John Milkovich, is the sponsor. The Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, was elected on a pro-life platform.
“In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years,” Edwards said in a statement. “As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth.”
The bill would make it unlawful to “knowingly perform an abortion with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being when a fetal heartbeat has been detected.” It makes exceptions for the life or the mother and to “prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
An unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected between six and eight weeks of a pregnancy.
Once signed, it would take effect only if a similar law from Mississippi is upheld in federal court.
The bill does not make exceptions for rape or incest. State Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican, defended the bill during a floor debate.
“Even though I know there are horrible crimes that are committed with rape and incest … The child should not be killed and terminated because of the crime of the father,” she said, according to The Advocate newspaper.
Being pro-life, Edwards asserted, involves more than opposing abortion.
“My first act as governor was to expand access to health care for working Louisianans,” he said. “I have worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to expand investment in education and pass sweeping criminal justice reforms. For each of the last three years, my administration has set records for the number of children being adopted out of our foster care system. And despite fierce opposition, I’ve fought to ensure LGBT citizens are not discriminated against in the workplace, to raise the minimum wage, and to pay a woman the same as a man for doing the same job.
“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions,” he said. “As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.