Another day, and another red state enacts another unconstitutional abortion ban. Today it’s Louisiana, which became the eighth state whose legislature has passed a so-called heartbeat bill prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat can theoretically be detected by ultrasound. This is usually at about five to six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, and long before fetal viability, which is supposed to be the first point at which a woman’s right to choose can be directly regulated, according to more than four decades of Supreme Court precedent. The Louisiana ban has no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
What makes Louisiana’s action unusual, though, is that the measure was written by a Democratic state senator, John Milkovich, and will soon be signed into law by a Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards. Such extreme abortion laws are typically the product of Republicans and often attract support from Republicans alone. Not in Louisiana, a state that had the fifth-highest percentage (57 percent) of adults who favored making all or most abortions illegal, according to a 2014 Pew study.
Edwards has never wavered in his anti-abortion convictions, as the New York Times explains:
“My position hasn’t changed: In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator, 100 percent with the Louisiana Right to Life,” Mr. Edwards said recently. “When I ran for governor, I said that I was pro-life, and so that’s something that’s consistent.”
He signed a somewhat less restrictive pre-viability abortion ban last year, so this latest step isn’t surprising. It does, however, discomfit national Democrats supporting Edwards’s reelection bid this year. He’s one of just three Democratic governors in a broad swath of southern states running from Texas to Virginia (and the only one who isn’t pro-choice).
Abortion-rights advocates won’t have to go to court immediately to stop implementation of the Louisiana law; its effective date is keyed to judicial review of a similar law in next-door Mississippi that has already been blocked by a district-court judge. So, like anti-abortion lawmakers everywhere, the Louisiana pols seeking to revoke reproductive rights will have to wait and see if the Supreme Court’s spanking-new five-justice conservative bloc will succor them with a reversal or modification of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In the meantime, tourists and anthropologists looking for specimens of that all-but-extinct species known as the anti-abortion Democratic elected official can witness a few remnants in Baton Rouge.