Louisiana Democratic governor signals support for bill that would ban abortion after 6 weeks

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signaled this week his support for an anti-abortion bill that his state legislature is close to fully passing....

Posted: May 19, 2019 8:45 AM

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signaled this week his support for an anti-abortion bill that his state legislature is close to fully passing.

"My position hasn't changed. In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator," Edwards told reporters Thursday during a press conference in Louisiana. "When I ran for governor, I said that I was pro-life. And so that's something that's consistent."

Senate Bill 184, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. John Milkovich, prohibits abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected -- similar to so-called fetal heartbeat bills in Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and, most recently, Missouri. That can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don't yet know for certain that they're pregnant. A spokeswoman with Edwards' office told CNN on Saturday the governor is "inclined" to sign the bill should it reach his desk -- a position that is generally at odds with the Democratic Party.

"He's said he's inclined to sign it," said Christina Stephens, deputy chief of staff for communications and special projects. "Certainly he wants to see the final bill first. This is very much in line with his previous pro-life votes and actions."

The bill would also penalize doctors who perform the procedure, making them face a $1,000 fine or up to two years in prison. It allows exceptions to prevent a "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" or the death of the mother. The bill does not include exemptions for cases of rape and incest.

Edwards, who is up for reelection in October, said in his remarks to reporters earlier in the week that it's his "personal opinion" that the "people of the Louisiana are overwhelmingly pro-life." The legislation passed Louisiana House and Senate committees on Wednesday with bipartisan support.

Cory Stewart, director of the Louisiana House of Representatives' communications office, told CNN that the bill heads back to the House floor next week for a final vote. If passed, the bill goes to Edwards' office for his signature.

State lawmakers, however, wrote into the bill language that the legislation will only go into effect if a federal appeals court upholds Mississippi's "heartbeat law," which was signed in March.

Edwards on Thursday predicted that the bill would face legal challenges and that the state would defend the bill.

The governor also told reporters Thursday that he supports Medicaid expansion as well as the abortion ban, arguing that it too is "life-affirming."

Edwards signed a bill in May 2018, also sponsored by Milkovich, that similarly banned the procedure, but after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Like SB 184, the 15-week ban was written to only go into effect if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law. The bill, however, was put on hold since a federal judge blocked the Mississippi law from going into effect last year.

Several Republican-led states have moved to pass bills restricting abortion, including Alabama which enacted the country's most restrictive abortion law earlier this week.

Many state legislators are backing abortion-related bills with the goal of them going before the Supreme Court, where lawmakers hope conservative justices will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a ruling that legalized abortion in the US in 1973.

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