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Hinging On Similar Mississippi Law, Louisiana Senate Committee Approves 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

May 6, 2019
Originally published on May 6, 2019 9:04 am

Louisiana’s Senate will consider a bill to prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected— a law that’s been blocked from taking effect in other states. 

“We feel that this is an important statement of Louisiana’s devotion to protect the unborn,” Senator John Milkovich (D-Shreveport) told members of a Senate judiciary commitee last week.

Under his proposal, abortions would be illegal after a heartbeat can be identified, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Committee members initially approved an amendment by Senator Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) that would make exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

“What I’m suggesting is that in the case of such a horrific experience that the victim should have the right to choose,” explained Senator Carter.

But the committee backtracked, stripping those exceptions from the bill after a push from pro-life group Louisiana Right to Life, a move Senator Milkovich supported.

Committee members also agreed to tie the bill to a similar measure in Mississippi, which is currently being challenged in federal court. So, even if the bill passes both chambers of Louisiana’s Legislature, it will only take effect if Mississippi’s law is ruled constitutional.

Members added that caveat hoping to spare the state from the cost of litigation, which opponents say would be inevitable. 

Critics argue the law violates Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Ellie Schilling is a Louisiana attorney who represents reproductive health care providers. She says the bill would make it more difficult for a woman to access the procedure in Louisiana— a state with some of the strictest abortion laws already on the books.

“With such an early ban," said Schilling, "you might not even know you are pregnant before that option is taken away from you.”

The bill passed committee on a 5-to-2 vote.

This wouldn't be the first time the Louisiana Legislature has made an abortion bill contingent upon a similar law in Mississippi.  Last year, Senator Milkovich brought a measure that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.  That legislation made it through the Legislature and was approved by Governor John Bel Edwards, but the effective date is on hold until the Mississippi case is reviewed by federal courts.

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