BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — On almost every issue, Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson is a typical Democrat. She recently voted to do away with the death penalty. She fought for Medicaid expansion in the state. She believes in the use of contraception.
But on the issue of abortion, Jackson is the anti-abortion movement’s messaging unicorn: A black, female, Democrat from the South that is unapologetically fighting to end abortions in her state.
It’s an unusual position among national Democratic lawmakers, but Jackson says it’s in step with her constituents and other democrats in Louisiana. According to her, the district she represents is 60% Democrat and 40% Republican. “The overwhelming majority of my district is pro-life,” she said.
Jackson is responsible for one of two anti-abortion bills that made their way to the Louisiana House of Representatives floor Thursday. One of them, a so-called heartbeat bill, prohibits performing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
This type of law is criticized as an effective ban on abortion since many women don’t know they’re pregnant — or are unable to get an appointment — in that timeframe. It passed with overwhelming support and was signed into law by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.
But much like a slew of other anti-abortion bills states have passed in recent months in anticipation of the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, it won’t go into effect immediately and will be challenged in court.
The other bill, a constitutional amendment which would specifically say there is no constitutional right in the state of Louisiana to an abortion, didn’t pass.
But that’s due to strategy, not a lack of support. Jackson was the sponsor of the bill and she pulled it from the floor herself, forcing it back into a conference committee.
If it had been passed as planned, the amendment would’ve been presented to voters as a referendum alongside the gubernatorial and state legislative primaries in October. Jackson, worried that it could hurt pro-abortion rights Democrats in the off-year election, wants it to be voted on in November 2020 instead.
“I think it'll help the pro-life Democrats, but at the same time it may hurt other Democrats,” said Rep. Jackson. “I think it'll help my election but it's not all about me.”
In a state where abortion views aren’t predicated by party lines, Rep. Jackson’s decision to delay her own bill is a prime example of the complexity of balancing anti-abortion views while attempting to stay true to one’s party.
This segment originally aired May 29, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.