On Wednesday, May 29, Louisiana became yet another state to move to pass a restrictive measure that could severely impact reproductive rights for residents. It echoes similar bills that have been introduced in nearby states, but that doesn't make Louisiana's new abortion bill any less disturbing.
On May 29, Louisiana lawmakers approved a "heartbeat" bill that would prohibit terminating a pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat is detected by a physician, even in cases of rape or incest. The bill would require a pregnant person to undergo an ultrasound test and ban abortion if cardiac activity is found. This would put an abortion out of reach as early as six weeks, before many people even know they're pregnant. Abortion would be permitted only in the case of a risk to the pregnant person's life or health, and doctors who perform an abortion in violation of the law could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, per The New York Times.
The bill, titled SB184, was approved with a 79-23 vote in the House and is now heading to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards awaiting his signature. Despite being a member of the Democratic party, Edwards has stated that he is pro-life and plans to break away from his party in order to pass this bill.
Edwards released a statement on Wednesday discussing his plan to sign the bill, and despite the controversy, called for bipartisanship on this issue. A part of the statement reads,
I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me — and I respect their opinions. 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.
This move by Louisiana lawmakers is yet another heartbeat bill that has been introduced, and passed, in states across the nation. States including Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia have all passed similar measures. However, Ohio and Georgia allows abortions in cases of rape or incest.
On May 14, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the the Human Life Protection Act, which is a near total-ban on abortion prohibiting procedures in nearly all cases including rape or incest. In addition, physicians who conduct, or attempt to conduct, a procedure could face up to 99 years in prison. Alabama and Missouri's efforts to restrict abortion access became particularly controversial when the bills disclosed that abortions would not be permitted in cases of rape or incest. The procedure would only be allowed if the patient's life was at risk.
Despite the slew of anti-abortion measures popping up, there have been small victories for reproductive rights activists. On May 21, the Nevada State Assembly voted to pass SB197, which repeals abortion restrictions including requiring physicians to tell patients about the “physical and emotional implications” of an abortion, as well as determine an individual's age and marital status before performing the procedure. The measure would also decriminalize physicians from giving patients abortion-inducing medication without a doctor's advice or approval.
On May 24, federal judge Carlton Reeves blocked a Mississippi heartbeat measure that would prohibit abortions as early as six weeks in pregnancy. The law was set to take effect in July. Reeves announced his decision by stating this measure would "threaten women's rights", and pointed out that most patients don't seek abortions until after six weeks of pregnancy. He said,
Allowing the law to take effect would force the clinic to stop providing most abortion care. By banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the law prevents a woman's free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.
The fight for reproductive rights continues. It's never been more important to stand up, and speak out.