Debates intensify as La. abortion bills near final passage

Debates intensify as La. abortion bills near final passage

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Pro-life forces believe two anti-abortion bills facing their final legislative hurdles at the state capitol will win final passage and be signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. But pro-choice advocates say they will keep fighting to protect women’s rights.

Ben Clapper with Louisiana Right To Life said a bill sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Katrina Jackson of Monroe is of upmost importance to pro-life groups.

"Our main legislation this session is the “Love Life” constitutional amendment that will go to the people on October 12th for a vote,” Clapper said.

If passed, the bill would place a proposed constitutional amendment before voters statewide that would say abortion rights are not protected in the state.

"And it would ensure that there's no state right to abortion in Louisiana,” Clapper added.

A separate bill by Sen. John Milkovich, another Democrat, would ban abortions in Louisiana when a fetuses’ heartbeat can be detected.

While Clapper supports that too, pro-choice groups say the legislation is another attack on women’s rights.

“I am resisting calling it a heartbeat bill, because I think that also triggers people to think that this is something. Yes, it’s an actual heartbeat,” Haywood said. “[But] it’s also six weeks when most women don’t even know that they’re pregnant.”

She said new anti-abortion laws already passed by states like Georgia and Alabama are disturbing.

“When you think about it across the board, how harsh they are, especially when you think about Alabama, which right now has everybody terrified,: Haywood said. "But we’re all terrified in this moment, but willing to fight back.

Tulane constitutional law professor Keith Werhan, who previously worked for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, said the increase in anti-abortion measures are not coincidental.

“This is a reaction to Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh replacing Justice Kennedy on the court,” Werhan said. “Justice Kennedy was a fifth vote for maintaining the basic principal of constitutional protection for abortion rights.”

With Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court, a conservative majority was created.

Werhan called the laws being passed “outright prohibitions” and doubts they would pass muster with the lower federal courts. Instead, he believes proponents of such laws are aiming for the U.S. Supreme Court.

"So the idea is that you lose in the lower courts, but then you seek review in the Supreme Court, and you give the Supreme Court with the new majority an opportunity to take the case,” Werhan said.

Still, he said he doubts Kavanaugh, who was appointed by President Donald Trump or Chief Justice John Roberts would want to take on Roe V. Wade so soon after Kavanaugh’s appointment.

"Just from a matter of the institutional integrity of the court, they would worry about whether or not such a sea-change in constitutional protection that would be so directly pegged to switching out one justice for another. I think that, that would give both of them qualms,” Werhan said.

Rep. Jackson and backers of her proposed constitutional amendment will hold a press conference at the state capitol Tuesday (May 21) and pro-life advocates plan to rally in New Orleans the following day.

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