Can Democrats be pro-life? It turns out that they can be in
Louisiana. When Pelican State legislators voted this week to pass a fetal
heartbeat bill, it was the result of a bipartisan effort between Democrats and
The Louisiana law, which bans abortion after a fetal
heartbeat is detected and contains no exception for rape or incest, was
sponsored by a Democrat. Senator John Milkovich, who represents Shreveport, introduced
the bill in the Senate while Rep. Valarie Hodges of Livingston Parish, a
Republican, shepherded the bill through the House.
In the initial Senate vote, there
was no Republican opposition and only Democrats voted, one for and one against
the bill. Ten Senate Republicans and 13 Democrats did not vote. The final bill passed the House with
overwhelming support. Republicans voted in a bloc for passage while Democrats
were split almost equally.
After passage, the bill went to the governor, also a
Democrat, to be signed into law. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is the South’s only
Democratic governor, signed the bill on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement,
the governor 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.”
NOLA.com notes that Edwards, who is rated at 100 percent by Louisiana Right to Life, is a Catholic who views anti-abortion policy and the Medicaid expansion as both pro-life policies. The paper points out that other prominent Louisiana Democrats are also staunchly pro-life.
Nevertheless, Bart Stupak, a former Wisconsin congressman
who is currently on the board for Democrats for Life says that Edwards’ pro-life
stance will make fundraising from the big Democrat donors difficult. “If you’re
trying to raise money on the national level, it gets very, very difficult,” he said.
“There will be no money. There will be no help.”
Abortion has become a litmus test for many in the party, but
Louisiana Democrats have shown that they are not afraid to stand up for life. National
Democrats should learn from their example and allow Democratic candidates and
officials to follow their conscience on the issue.
Opinions on the abortion issue vary across the country and
locking their candidates into a one-size-fits-all pro-choice position often
hurts Democratic candidates who run in conservative states. Many people who
would support Democrats on other issues cannot bring themselves to vote for
pro-abortion candidates. If Democrats can learn to tolerate pro-lifers in their
midst, the party would be stronger for its ideological diversity.