The lines in the abortion debate seem to be heavier every week. In recent months, some states have enacted laws that allow abortion up to the moment a baby is born. Media outlets like NPR are emphasizing language like “fetus” and avoiding the phrase “unborn child.”
On the other side, states are beginning to pass pro-life measures, especially in the South. States like Georgia have passed laws that prohibit abortion when ultrasounds can detect a baby’s heartbeat, while Alabama has banned the procedure outright. In Missouri we’re beginning to see the effects of strict pro-life measures, where the last abortion clinic in the state may close soon.
The latest Southern state to join in the abortion fight on the side of life is Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards is set to sign a heartbeat bill into law. But there’s a twist: both Edwards and John Milkovich, the state senator who sponsored the legislation, are Democrats.
The bill, which cleared the Louisiana House by a 79-23 vote, requires an ultrasound to be conducted prior to any abortion procedure being performed. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the bill bans abortion unless, under penalty of perjury, the abortion provider declares the procedure necessary “to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
The bill also includes an exemption in the case that a physician certifies that the “unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
The text does not include an exception for rape or incest, but it includes penalties only for abortion providers, and not women seeking abortions. Doctors breaking the law could face up to two years in prison and lose their medical license.
Edwards issued a statement on the bill that emphasized his commitment to the pro-life cause:
Louisiana shows that the fight for life isn’t just a GOP one. I asked last week whether a Democrat can truly be pro-life, and in Louisiana is appears the answer is “yes.”
The slew of states passing pro-life laws makes me grateful for the federalism baked into the United States from its founding. States have the ability to cater certain laws to fit their residents, and seeing these states side with allowing babies to live is encouraging.
Will other states – both in the South and outside – follow suit? We’ll have to see. I hope it will happen even more.