A pro-life bill introduced in the Louisiana legislature received Gov. John Bel Edwards’ support on Wednesday.
Edwards, a rare pro-life Democrat, said he probably will sign the bill to prohibit abortions on unborn babies after 15 weeks if it reaches his desk, according to the AP. The governor said he has not seen the bill yet or talked to its sponsor, but he is “very much a pro-life individual.”
“It remains to be seen whether that bill will make its way through the process. I would be inclined to sign it if it hits my desk,” Edwards said on his radio show.
The bill still is in the early stages of the process. State Sen. John Milkovich, also a Democrat, recently introduced the bill, but the Senate has not scheduled a hearing on it yet, the report states.
According to the report: “Milkovich’s bill wouldn’t penalize a woman seeking the abortion, but would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion after the 15-week period. Doctors who violate the ban would face a prison sentence ranging from one year to 10 years, along with a hefty fine. The measure would maintain an existing exception for abortions performed because of risks to the pregnant woman’s life.”
If it passes, Louisiana would become the second state to attempt to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi passed a similar law this month, but a judge blocked it after the last abortion facility in the state sued.
More than 200 unborn babies were aborted after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Louisiana in 2017, according to state Department of Health data. About the same number are aborted every year in Mississippi.
By 15 weeks, unborn babies are nearly fully formed; their major organs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, taste buds and even their own unique fingerprints are in place. By this point in the pregnancy, scientists say unborn babies respond to touch. Babies at this stage also have been observed yawning, smiling and sucking their thumbs.
Louisiana and Mississippi currently prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.
At this point, it is unclear if a 15-week ban would withstand a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, and pro-life advocates praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch; however, a majority of judges on the high court do not think unborn babies deserve a right to life.
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Several years ago, North Dakota and Arkansas passed bills to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat (about six weeks), but federal courts struck down both laws.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about the bills: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.