BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards said he is ready to sign a bill on the way to his desk that will outlaw abortions in Louisiana once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The House of Representatives voted 79 to 23 in favor of Senate Bill 184 by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport Wednesday (May 29). It could ban abortions as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
Rep. Valerie Hodges, a Republican, handled the bill for Milkovich in the House.
"Whether it’s a perfect life or imperfect life...I think life is worth saving,” Hodges said at the start of the debate.
Pro-life organizations were present for the vote praised the legislation, including Ben Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life.
"Senate Bill 184 protects the unborn baby when their heartbeat is detectable. The unborn child has a heartbeat and abortion stops that beating heart and we need to protect the life of that baby by protecting them when that heart is beating,” Clapper said.
Democrats in the House were unsuccessful in their attempts to water down the strict anti-abortion legislation through amendments, including a proposal to make exceptions to the prohibition in cases of rape or incest.
Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, spoke out against the bill.
“Let a woman choose what she needs to do with her body, that’s her body and the state has no jurisdiction over that,” Bagneris said.
Rep. Rodney Lyons, another Democrat, also opposed what the bill mandates.
“Well, first of all, it’s unconstitutional…it goes beyond what is reasonable,” Lyons said.
Governor Edwards issued the following statement after the vote in the House:
“In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years. As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth.
My first act as governor was to expand access to health care for working Louisianans. I have worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to expand investment in education and pass sweeping criminal justice reforms. For each of the last three years, my administration has set records for the number of children being adopted out of our foster care system. And despite fierce opposition, I’ve fought to ensure LGBT citizens are not discriminated against in the workplace, to raise the minimum wage, and to pay a woman the same as a man for doing the same job.
I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions. As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”
Louisiana’s law would only take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar Mississippi law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana released a statement condemning the bill following the vote, calling it “part of a concerted, nationwide effort to criminalize abortion.”
The statement went on to say:
"After years of attacks on abortion access, Louisiana politicians have now sunk to a new low with an extreme ban that would outlaw abortion before many women know they are pregnant. Senate Bill 184 is a plainly unconstitutional reminder of just how far Louisiana politicians are willing to go to interfere in these deeply personal medical decisions and force women to continue pregnancies against their will. We’re committed to making sure this brazen attack on the constitutional right to abortion access never takes effect.”
On the other side, Louisiana Right to Life issued a statement of approval:
“We commend the House for voting to protect the lives of an unborn baby whose heartbeat can be detected. We congratulate Rep. Valarie Hodges for successfully shepherding the law on the House floor. Louisiana Right to Life supports protecting all unborn babies, including those with a heartbeat that begins only 18 days after conception. This is even before most women know they are pregnant. Abortion stops the beating heart of a precious unborn child, and our nation must bring an end to this injustice. We look forward to Governor John Bel Edwards signing this bill into law.”