A bill to ban abortions in Louisiana after a fetal heartbeat can be detected is headed to Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk, after the Louisiana Legislature overwhelmingly gave final approval Wednesday.
"When you can hear a baby’s heartbeat, that is proof that life is present," said Representative Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), who presented the bill on the House floor for the author, Senator John Milkovich (D-Shreveport).
Louisiana joins several other states, including Georgia and Mississippi, that have passed so-called ‘heartbeat’ bills this year. The legislation outlaws abortions after a physician can detect the pulse of what will ultimately become the fetus’ heart, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.
“By week five, you know, or week six or seven, you certainly know if you are pregnant or not,” said Representative Hodeges.
But opponents say women don’t always know they’re pregnant that early on and by the time a woman may find out she’s pregnant, abortion would no longer be an option.
The House rejected three attempts to allow abortions in the case of rape or incest.
Representative Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) said in doing so, the Legislature failed to consider young girls who become pregnant as a result of rape.
"How dare you tell a 9 year-old, a 10 year-old, 11 year-old that they’re suppose to carry a baby for an uncle, a father, or someone in their family that's taken advantage of them?" Representative Smith asked members of the House.
But a vast majority of the Legislature disagreed.
“The manner in which the baby is conceived is not an indictment of that child that should warrant a death sentence for that child,” said Representative Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) in opposition to an amendment that would have added an exception in the case of rape or incest.
In a statement released after the vote, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards said he will sign the bill into law.
The restriction would only take effect if a similar law in Mississippi is upheld. A federal judge blocked that law last week.