Louisiana governor to sign heartbeat bill

Baton Rouge, La., May 30, 2019 / 07:45 am (CNA).- The Louisiana House of Representatives has passed a fetal heartbeat bill, making it the latest state to move towards adopting such legislation. The bill passed the house with bipartisan support on May 29, by a margin of 79-23 in favor.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has previously spoken in favor of the bill. Following its passage by the house, the governor said he would sign the legislation.

The bill, which passed the state senate earlier this month with equal cross-party support, would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected in the unborn child, usually between six to eight weeks of pregnancy.  

“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions,” Edwards said in a statement.

“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.”

Edwards was elected governor in 2015 on an expressly pro-life platform. His promise to sign the bill comes as several Democratic candidates for president have reiterated their uncompromising support for abortion rights. Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski, one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in the House, is currently facing a second consecutive primary challenge over his pro-life stance.

The Louisiana governor said he considered himself to be pro-life in a broad sense, highlighting his efforts to expand healthcare coverage in the state, provide extra resources for education, and pass criminal justice reforms.

“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 beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth,” said Edwards.

“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.”

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a stay against another pro-life law in Louisiana. That measure, which requires that any abortion doctor have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Abortion providers have argued that since only one abortionist in the state has such privileges, the legislation effectively outlaws abortion.

Louisiana is the fifth state to pass a heartbeat bill in 2019, with Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio having already passed similar laws.

Other states, most notably Tennessee, have considered heartbeat laws alongside so-called “trigger bans” which would outlaw abortion in the event Roe v Wade were overturned. Alabama recently passed a sweeping pro-life measure making abortion a felony offence.

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