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This story has been updated (May 31, 2019 09:51 A.M. E.T.).
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, May 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Louisiana just became the latest state to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, thanks to the signature of a rare pro-life Democrat.
On Wednesday, the Louisiana House voted 79-23 to give final approval to legislation that forbids aborting any baby with a detectable heartbeat, except to “prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” or if the baby “has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
Violating abortionists could be punished with up to two years in prison and losing their medical licenses, Fox News reports. The measure does not contain exceptions for babies conceived in rape or incest and will not take effect until Mississippi’s heartbeat law is upheld in federal court, sparing Louisiana another legal battle of the kind that has cost it more than $1 million since 2014.
Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed he would sign the bill in a statement, declaring he “ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years” and has “been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue.”
“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me — and I respect their opinions,” he added at the time. “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.”
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) May 29, 2019
Heartbeat legislation bans abortions much earlier than allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s current “viability” threshold, all but ensuring a lawsuit in other states. While some Republican politicians have been wary of incurring the costs of a legal battle they expect to lose, others advocate heartbeat bills specifically as vehicles to provoke challenges they hope will reach the U.S. Supreme Court and finally overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby restoring the American people’s right to vote directly on their own abortion laws. Many pro-life activists point out that even moderate pro-life laws also face costly legal challenges.
Since taking office, Edwards has also signed a 15-week abortion ban, a 72-hour abortion waiting period, and a ban on dismemberment abortion procedures (though he also unsuccessfully tried to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to state discrimination laws by executive fiat). Last month, Louisiana’s House advanced a referendum that would establish there is no “right” to abortion in the state’s constitution.