Louisiana’s Democratic governor signs abortion ban into law

Planned Parenthood protesters at the Louisiana Capitol Credit: Melinda Deslatte/AP

Louisiana’s Democratic governor has signed a ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, a move that puts him squarely in line with the leaders of other conservative Southern US states while provoking anger from members of his own party.

With his signature, Governor John Bel Edwards made Louisiana the fifth state to enact a law prohibiting abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, joining Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia.

Alabama’s gone further, outlawing virtually all abortions.

Louisiana’s law does not contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest.

The bill’s signing, however, will limit the state’s three abortion clinics anytime soon.

Louisiana’s law takes effect only if the law in neighbouring Mississippi, which was recently blocked by a judge, is upheld by a federal appeals court.

Mr Edwards, a Catholic running for reelection this year, did not hold a public bill signing, instead announcing his action through his office.

ITV News Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall previously reported on the #StopTheBans protests attended by thousands of women in the US.

He had repeatedly said he intended to sign the measure, citing his faith and saying his views match those of people in his conservative, religious state, who he described as “overwhelmingly pro-life”.

Louisiana legislators overwhelmingly supported the ban, with a 79-23 House vote and 31-5 Senate vote.

Abortion opponents are pushing new restrictions on the procedure in hopes that a case will make its way to the high court and two new conservative justices appointed by President Donald Trump could help overturn the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationally.

None of the abortion bans enacted this year has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges that will delay any enforcement of the prohibitions against the procedure.

Opponents of the so-called heartbeat bills said they would effectively eliminate abortion as an option before many women realise they are pregnant and would violate constitutional privacy protections.

Several hundred pink-clad Planned Parenthood supporters filled the Louisiana Capitol to protest against the ban ahead of the bill signing.

“The unprecedented and extreme attacks on abortion we’re seeing across the country, including here in Louisiana, are dangerous to patient health and wellbeing,” Petrice Sams-Abiodun, with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood protesters hold a ‘stand-in’ at the Louisiana Capitol Credit: Melinda Deslatte/AP

Louisiana’s law includes an exception from the abortion ban to prevent the pregnant woman’s death or “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” — or if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile”.

But it does not include an exception for a pregnancy caused by rape or incest, drawing criticism that the law forces continued trauma on women who have been victimised.

Under the bill, a doctor who violates the prohibition could face a prison sentence of up to two years, along with medical license revocation.