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Louisiana state lawmakers just passed a law barring abortions as early as six weeks, without exceptions for rape or incest. That’s before most women know they’re pregnant.
The so-called “heartbeat” bill, named for the detection of a fetal heartbeat, easily passed through Louisiana’s House of Representatives 79-23 Wednesday night. The state Senate had already passed the bill earlier this month. The new law is part of an increasingly aggressive effort at the state level, usually steered by Republicans, to trigger a Supreme Court challenge that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
But Louisiana’s bill was introduced by state Sen. John Milkovich, a Democrat — and Gov. John Bel Edwards, also a Democrat, said he’s prepared to sign it.
In a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday night, Edwards stood by the anti-abortion legislation. He also emphasized that he’s taken other positions he considers to be “pro-life,” like expanding Medicaid in the state to ensure health care access for poor people and raising the minimum wage.
“As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue,” he wrote.
The bill the legislators passed Wednesday still allows for exemptions if a pregnancy is considered "medically futile." Just hours before the final version passed, however, they struck down a proposed amendment that would’ve allowed exemptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.
"I'm very hopeful for passage of this landmark anti-abortion, pro-life bill. I think it's going to be an occasion of great excitement for the people of Louisiana," Milkovich said last week. Last month, he also suggested autism didn’t exist when he was growing up and “is a result of vaccination.”
The near-total abortion ban has received support from other Louisiana Democrats, too, including state Rep. Katrina Jackson.
This year, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, and Georgia have all passed similar “heartbeat” bans that outlaw abortion as early as eight weeks into pregnancy. And Alabama passed a law earlier this month to ban nearly all abortions, also without exceptions for rape or incest. None of those bans are in effect yet, and abortion remains legal nationwide.
If signed, Louisiana's law also wouldn't go into effect right away. Rather, it would take effect if the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows a similar ban that’s being challenged in Mississippi. Last week, a U.S. district judge blocked Mississippi’s version and sided with the only remaining abortion clinic in the state.
Louisiana’s House has also advanced a ballot measure that, if approved by voters, would amend the state’s constitution to bar the right to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. And U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, took a swipe at the landmark decision earlier this month.
"Anybody who knows a law book from a J-Crew catalog knows Roe v. Wade was one of the most poorly reasoned decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court,” Kennedy said, according to the Washington Examiner. “It is totally illogical. The analysis makes no sense. So if the Supreme Court wants to revisit it, it’s not gonna bother me one bit.”
Cover image: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards attends a press conference on April 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Celano)