By Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — A bid to ban abortions after six weeks in Louisiana moved one step closer to being placed on the governor’s desk.
The Louisiana Senate signaled strong bipartisan support in a 31-5 vote in favor of the “fetal heartbeat” bill by Democratic Sen. John Milkovich of Shreveport.
The proposed legislation would ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat in the womb, usually at around six weeks. The bill now moves to the House.
Shortly before the Senate passed the bill, it overwhelmingly rejected a bill aimed at abolishing the death penalty.
This rejection followed an emotional hearing in a Senate judiciary committee last week that had supported an end to capital punishment.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, needed the approval of 26 senators to pass, but received support from only 13.
Proponents of the bill argued that the Louisiana Public Defender Board has spent $111 million on death penalty cases since 2008, and only one person has been executed since then.
If signed into law, the abortion rule will only go into effect if similar legislation in Mississippi is upheld by a federal appeals court.
Milkovich also sponsored a 15-week abortion ban that passed last year and was signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a pro-life Democrat.
In a 2018 court ruling involving Mississippi that also is binding for Louisiana, a federal judge ruled that a 15-week abortion ban “unequivocally” violates a woman’s constitutional rights. Since then, the Louisiana law has been placed on hold.
GOP-controlled legislatures in Ohio and Kentucky have already passed “fetal heartbeat” bills. Other legislatures that have introduced bills to implement six-week abortion bans include Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas, West Virginia and Florida.
The bill provides two exceptions to the ban – when the physician performing the abortion has determined that the procedure will prevent death or significant bodily harm to the woman, and if the physician conducts a test to detect a fetal heartbeat and cannot verify one.
Republican state lawmakers across the country have moved to enact sweeping abortion bans in an attempt to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The legal landscape, too, has favored abortion bans as the current U.S. Supreme Court leans conservative.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, is expected to sign a bill Tuesday that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill has created controversy among Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights supporters.
Opponents of the bill, which would ban abortions after about six weeks, say that some women would not know if they were pregnant by that time and would face considerable challenges to see a medical provider to receive proper care.
If last year’s law still stands once the Mississippi court case is concluded, anyone who “commits the crime of abortion” after the 15-week period could face up to two years in jail and a $1,000 fine. But women who seek abortions would not be reprimanded.
Abortion providers also could have their medical licenses revoked by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners if found to be in violation.