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Louisiana passes "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban

Lawmakers send new abortion bill to La. governor

Louisiana lawmakers passed a strict abortion ban Wednesday that would prohibit the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The laws are designed to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated that he would sign Senate Bill 184 when the bill reaches his desk. "In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years," he said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

When he ran for governor, his view was the same. "I'm as consistent as I can be on that point," he added.

Louisiana is the fifth state to pass a "fetal heartbeat" ban — following Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. The House rejected an amendment Wednesday to provide an exception to the bill for victims of rape or incest.

"I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me — and I respect their opinions," Bel Edwards said. "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."

Supporters of the legislation hope the case will be taken up by the Supreme Court and that the justices will use it to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In previous years, the Supreme Court declined to hear such cases, but a new ideological makeup on the nation's highest court, including the recent appointment of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has emboldened anti-abortion activists to try again.

Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have also passed laws that prohibit abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected at around six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant. None of the laws have taken effect, and all are expected to be blocked while legal challenges work their way through the courts.

Organizations that support reproductive rights, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, are already challenging the new laws.

"By passing this extreme abortion ban today, anti-women's health politicians in Louisiana voted to join their counterparts in places like Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Georgia to devastate the health and well-being of women and families," Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement Wednesday.

"Banning abortion will not stop abortion-but it will end access to safe, legal abortion care. These politicians in 2019 are deliberately putting women's lives at risk," Wen added.

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